With today’s generation, the progression of social networking has tremendously increased. A person is just one button away from changing someone else’s life whether intended or not. Social media provides a platform to spread news, display pictures, communicate around the world, and constantly share the latest gossip. Although social media can be beneficial, it has been recognized to be more damaging towards the individual’s self esteem due to social networking addiction, standards displayed online, and cyberbullying.
It is known that people are constantly communicating every day through email, texting, and the ever-expanding social networking. By definition, social media is a “form of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content” (Merriam-Webster). In the past decade, social media has experienced an explosion of popularity and has become the new norm for the younger generation’s communication. However, it was not like this until the early twenty-first century. The first social media surge came with Myspace in 2003, then between 2004 and 2006 Facebook took over and Twitter followed; finally, around 2010 Instagram launched (“The History of Social Media: Social Networking Evolution!”). Although there are many more, almost all of these are still well known and consume the attention of millions of people. In some shape or form, all of these social networking sites have influenced people’s lives.
Self esteem “refers to an individual’s sense of his or her value or worth, or the extent to which a person values, approves of, appreciates, prizes, or likes him or herself” (Blascovich and Tomaka). Pride, confidence, shame, dignity, and despair are a few words that reflect one’s self-esteem. It can be influenced by a personal experience either negatively or positively. Self-esteem does not really form in one’s consciousness until later adolescent years. Teenagers start to experience more, engage more on social sites, and surround themselves amongst peers, which can all easily affect self-esteem.
Cyberbullying is just one example of how social media affects self-esteem. Cyberbullying is defined by the United States government as “…sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation” (“What Is Cyberbullying”). Assuming most teenagers are more familiar with technology, cyberbullying occurs more towards middle and high school students; however, it is not limited to just those categories. A prime example of cyberbullying overtaking the vulnerable youth is a case in 2006 of Megan Meier. Megan was a thirteen year old who was harassed by a friend’s mother who wanted to find out if Megan was spreading rumors about her daughter so she created a fake account and impersonated someone else named Josh (Szumski 16). Furthermore, Megan was befriended on Myspace by “Josh” who soon began to taunt her and sent harmful messages like “the world would be a better place without you,” (Magg). It was instances like this that humiliated her, made her feel worthless, and degraded her that led Megan to committing suicide by hanging herself shortly before her fourteenth birthday (Szumski 16). Critics may argue that bullies are bullies regardless of internet access; however, a whole new venue has opened up and expanded the opportunities for bullying to be anonymous, quick, and visible to a much larger audience. Also “now constant connectivity ensures bullies can torment their victims 24/7” (Szumski 58). Over the past ten years, states have passed laws mandating anti-bullying and cyberbullying amongst the school environment. “Cyberbullying has become a real threat, and parents and educators must work in unison to counter antisocial and harmful harassment and make such crimes punishable by law” (Kiesbye 23). As awareness spreads and as the laws punishing those who participate in this cowardly act are enforce, we may see a reduction in the increasing numbers of victims whose self-esteem has dropped tremendously from constant cyberbullying.
Scrolling through your feed, you are constantly updated on the latest tweet, picture, or status. Now if an individual is following a model, a famous actor, or a famous athlete, they are going to become infatuated with their life and start to compare their everyday typical lifestyle to the individual who has a more of an admirable and spontaneous life. Unfortunately, that may make them feel less of themselves because they are envious and bitter that they do not live that same remarkable life. According to the survey conducted by H.O. Meyers (Figure 1 and 2, October 19, 2017) a researcher surveyed 65 people about social media effects, and in figure 1, the survey asked, “Do you feel jealous/envious of what people post on social media? Ex: their clothes, shoes, makeup, trips, places they eat, etc.” 70.8% (46 people out of 65) stated yes, they do acquire this feeling of jealously. In figure 2, the question was, “Do you compare your life to the lives of your friends/people you follow based on what they post on social media?” 69.2% (45 people out of 65) agreed that they do compare themselves to others. Regrettably, social media presents a competition amongst people and this is detrimental to one’s self-esteem. In 2013, The Sun-Herald reported that a “…principal of the Ascham girls school Helen Wright said it was understandable young people thought that was expected of them. They are copying so much of what they see around them if people are always looking at themselves through the eyes of others, it’s going to lead to a situation where they value themselves less” (“Under the Sway of Social Media”). Nonetheless, social networking sites are highly related to self-esteem and only worsening those who are struggling with body-esteem, self-identity, and self-worth. Melinda Tankard Reist, a social commentator, expresses that “young girls seeking affirmation via social media were setting themselves up for negative mental health outcomes. They feel they have to be on display. We live in a culture that rewards exhibitionism” (“Under the Sway of Social Media”). Social media idolizes those who have the perfect body shape, the perfect smile, the perfect hair, the perfect clothes, the perfect personality, the perfect qualities, the perfect friends, and the perfect family; the list goes on. It is draining to try and live up to the standards that social media displays. Instead of degrading those who do not measure up to the media’s standards, why can people not praise individuality, originality, and uniqueness? Everyone is different, everyone has flaws, and everyone struggles with something. Work together to help those who are struggling with self-esteem; start posting about accepting others instead of posting what is more socially acceptable.
How does one feel without your cell phone or the latest update? When Lexie Hahn received this question in an interview, she answered, “I feel disconnected from my friends.” Although this feeling may be unimportant or short term, it has invented a newer issue, social media addiction. Furthermore, “…a social networking addict could be considered someone with a compulsion to use social media to excess — constantly checking Facebook status updates or ‘stalking’ people’s profiles on Facebook, for example, for hours on end (Walker). Signs of having a social networking addiction include spending more than one hour daily at social media sites. For instance, “…in a study carried out among Korean college students, they reported that they tend to be anxious if they do not use mobile phones in a day (Park) which can be considered as the initial point of technological addiction” (Isiklar). Nonetheless, social media can update people with what is happening around the world, allowing individuals to stay connected. Consequently, if their only connection with social sites is to keep up with the latest drama and abusing the time spent on the sites for the wrong reasons, then it defeats the purpose of the positives. Another is constantly over sharing private information or personal photos whether it is to gain approval or acknowledgment from your followers or friends. Moreover, if there is an interference with work, school performance, or their offline social life, then the addiction is becoming severe. In regard to school performance, social media has caused students to be more focused socially than academically; they are more worried about online, often expecting comments on their newest post rather than thoroughly doing their homework and giving it the need attention. In relation to their offline social life, individuals may become more comfortable with the superficial banter on the social media site than they are with face-to-face interaction; one can be over-reliant on social media to fulfill social needs and start sacrificing real-life socializing. One case scenario could be “…if an individual thinks ‘I am not likable’ or ‘I have poor social skills’ – while at the same time believing that having a large number of friends or followers will change such self-evaluations – this may facilitate addictive social media participation” (Andreassen). In today’s generation, couples have forgotten how to communicate in real life. With all the social media updating, it is easily accessible to go on your phone and see see how someone’s day is going or what they did so there is nothing left to talk about in person (Silva). Overall, the more problematic mobile phone use is, shows how people have developed lower self-esteem.
Social media can be a great tool to connect and to share your life with others, but recently it has been abusing individuals’ self esteem. Cyberbullying can now be anonymous, constant, and visible to a larger crowd. Moreover, social sites set unrealistic standards, leaving one feeling envious, bitter, or less of themselves. To conclude, an excessive use of social media is crippling face-to-face communication skills and increasing social networking addiction. The purpose is that the correlation between social media and self-esteem is immensely negative. The power it has over people is dangerous and often goes unnoticed. To eliminate this problem, be the force of positivity on social sites, uplift others, manage or reduce your time spent on social media, appreciate your imperfections, and love yourself regardless of the media’s expectations.
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