Thursday, 3 June 2021

How to protect your self-esteem when using social media

You’ve probably already heard of the idea that our self-esteem is impacted by the media we consume and are exposed to. In a world where we are bombarded with particular body types and lifestyles, how can we ensure we protect our self-esteem while still receiving benefit from using social media?
Is social media really that bad for us?
Social media use has gathered some negative attention in recent years. However, much of the research indicates that it isn’t necessarily social media alone which is the problem, but rather how we use and engage with it. Therefore, it’s worth considering why you’re using social media. Do you notice that you use it when you’re bored? Do you find yourself checking your notifications to see how many likes you’ve received on your last post? Do you notice feeling dissatisfied with areas of your life after using social media ­- your looks, or yourself as a person? These may be signs that you’re using social media in a way that could be harmful for your self-esteem and psychological wellbeing.

Does social media contribute to low self-esteem?

Our self-esteem can be impacted by how we use social media and the role it plays in our lives. Positive comments, likes, and other forms of feedback on social media can leave us feeling seen, approved of, and as though we belong. These are hugely important to us as human beings as we require a sense of belonging for our psychological wellbeing. However, if you find yourself judging your feelings of worth based upon the amount of likes you receive, or you judge your posts on the amount of engagement they receive from other users, then this may mean you’re vulnerable to experiencing the negative effects of social media use.

Remember we’re often only seeing the best versions of someone else on social media. It is not representative of real life’s struggles and the natural ups and downs we have in common with all other human beings. However, it is tempting to compare. Psychological researcher, Erin Vogel, and her team found that although social media users were aware that other users were selectively presenting the best versions of themselves, they were still negatively affected by it.

How can you use social media in a positive way to protect your self-esteem?

  • Follow social media accounts that interest you, make you laugh, smile, feel curious, and ones that leave you feeling inspired. Unfollow anything that makes you feel less than this or over focused on one area.
  • Ensure social media is not used to substitute offline interactions or solely as an attempt to address feelings of loneliness. Research has found that when people replace face-to-face relationships with connections established online, the quality of social support both given and received is sacrificed. 
  • Consider how you can ensure your life outside of social media is full, rich, and purposeful. Find a direction and purpose that aligns with your values. Research shows that those who have a higher sense of purpose are less affected by likes than those who do not feel they have much purposeful direction in life.
  • Consider how social media fits into these values. Perhaps it’s by ensuring you’re compassionate and considerate online. Perhaps it’s reducing your screen time to remain ambitious and motivated at work or to be present with your family.

If you find thinking about or doing these things difficult, try talking about it with a trusted loved one or a professional who can help you if you are really struggling.

For more information about healthy social media use, sign up to our webinar 'Getting The Most Out Of Social Media For your Wellbeing' taking place on Friday 11 June 2021 at 12 noon BST. 

Fiona Rugg-Gunn works as an Applied Psychology Practitioner at First Psychology Edinburgh. She will be presenting the webinar 'Getting The Most Out Of Social Media For Your Wellbeing'

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