What Social Media Does to Your Self-Esteem

We’re all guilty of scrolling mindlessly through our Facebook or Instagram feeds every once in a while. There’s no doubt that social media makes it easier for us to stay updated with what’s going on in the lives of our peers and loved ones.

But have you ever wondered how those posts – your friend’s selfie, a celebrity’s vacation pics, your coworker’s gym stories –affect your perception of yourself?

In the Philippines, there’s still little research on the effects of social media on self-esteem. But plenty of international studies have made claims on how the picture-perfect posts we see on Facebook and Instagram may make us feel bad about ourselves.

One of the most common hypothesized consequence of social media use is body dissatisfaction.

The Age of Selfie Dysmorphia

Ads, women’s magazines, and heavily photoshopped models have long been notorious for stirring esteem issues among women. But now, we’ve welcomed an era of filters, lighting and angles, and free and easy-to-use editing apps. And because social media is so accessible, we’ve become more exposed to such altered images.

These puppy dog filters are fun and all, but when you’re staring at a version of you that’s still you but better, you may start to get all the wrong ideas. These photo effects brought us into the age of “Snapchat dysmorphia.”

Cosmetic surgeons have been noticing an increase in the number of patients who bring in unaltered photos along with filtered ones to show which areas of their face they want altered.

One of the surgeons went on to say that some patients don’t mind their reflections when looking at a mirror, but struggle to feel content with how they photograph.

Women tend to heavily scrutinize their appearance when it comes to their photos. This gap in perception, according to the study, may cause psychological problems – particularly, body dysmorphic disorder or BDD.BDD is a serious concern, often linked with eating disorders and depression.

Social Media and Body Image

 

This study by the University of Iowa, Ohio University, and the University of Strathclyde surveyed 881 female college students in the US. The researchers found that the more time young women spend viewing other people’s selfies on Facebook, the more likely they are to compare themselves negatively.

Also, photos from friends and acquaintances have more influence than the ones from celebrities. The subjects know – as do we – that ads featuring actresses and models are styled, edited, and airbrushed to perfection. But when that “perfection” comes from someone we know personally, the photos take a toll on women’s body image.

The study concludes that the more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to develop body dissatisfaction. And for a country such as ours, this revelation spells bad news.

For the last four years, the Philippines topped social media use globally. The Digital 2019: Global Digital Overview revealed that Filipinos spend more than four hours on social media each day, with Facebook as the dominant platform.

Most of these studies focus on how people react to social media content. But when it comes to our own social activities, the research is just as distressing.

Selfie Harm

A group of researchers from York University, Toronto performed an experiment on two groups of women. The first group had to take just one selfie and upload it on either Facebook or Instagram without altering the photo. The other group could take as many selfies as they want and edit to their heart’s desire.

All the subjects felt worse about themselves after posting their photos – even those who had the chance to “improve” their appearances on the photos. Some participants asked about the likes and reactions their photo garnered before deciding how they felt.

All these findings point to the potential harms caused by how we engage with and how often we use social media. If you’re aware that these channels affect you negatively, take control and protect your mental health.

Mindful media consumption is your best defense against these disheartening effects on your self-esteem.

Here are a few ways you can preserve your mental health while using social media:

  1. Curate your feeds. Follow empowering accounts that make you feel happier and more confident. And be unapologetic with unfollowing or muting those who make you feel bad about yourself.
  2. Participate in online movements that talk about topics like body positivity. This is your chance to immerse yourself in dialogues about self-esteem and self-image. Plus, many social media groups can share your story and struggles with body dissatisfaction. Sharing your feelings can be therapeutic.
  3. Educate yourself. Plenty of resources are available online that tackle critical topics, such as female stereotypes, self-comparison, body image and more.

One example is theDove’s Self-Esteem Project. This campaign, which you can learn more about here, aims to empower girls by giving them the tools to build their self-esteem and confidence through modules and workshops. The Self-Esteem Project focuses on young girls, but the information from the materials are age-universal, so you can benefit from it no matter your age.

The road to self-love isn’t always pretty.

We’re constantly exposed to things, social media included, that can pierce the confidence we struggled to build. Be mindful of the content you consume to preserve your inner peace. But also, don’t be afraid to be part of the ones leading the charge for body positivity.

Social media is about expressing yourself after all. Use it to redefine beauty standards and champion inclusivity, so that we can empower women, one post at a time.

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