Self-esteem and Social Media
Self-esteem and Social Media
Social media has gained immense popularity in the last decade and has certainly left a long-lasting impact on individuals’ lives. With social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, many people worldwide have found a platform to share information, connect and communicate. While several benefits can be drawn from social media, a growing number of research have proven social media’s negative consequences. In essence, social media has created an environment where people feel the need to be accepted by others. Therefore, this notion has had detrimental consequences on self-esteem and body image. With social media becoming increasingly popular, especially among teenagers and college students, it has triggered comparisons among peers raising doubts about self-worth, which is an aspect that may lead to mental health issues.
One’s self-esteem is primarily affected by the way one thinks. In this, self-esteem refers to individuals’ evaluation of themselves and the extent to which they believe in their worth, success, significance, and capabilities. This, therefore, constitutes the attitudes of an individual towards their values. In the hierarchy of needs by Abraham Maslow, he identifies esteem as one of the basic human motivations. He suggests that individuals need appreciation and inner respect to establish esteem and reach self-actualization. When it comes to social media, it can be seen as a tool for boosting confidence through various posts or establishing an opportunity to pass judgment. Therefore, in terms of behavior, social media has the potential to either amplify one’s level of self-esteem or lower one’s self-esteem. However, this paper will focus on the negative consequences of social media in influencing attitudes and behavior.
In psychology, different theories have been put across by various scholars to explain the concept of self-esteem. One such theory is the Sociometer theory. The Sociometer Theory is based on the premise that human beings have a fundamental need to belong. According to Leary (2012), self-esteem is part of a psychological system where individuals gauge their value and are socially accepted. This theory suggests that self-esteem functions maintain one’s level of acceptance and status within a social grouping. In instances where individuals are excluded in social settings, their chance for relational value is impaired. In this sense, people do things intentionally to increase their value and chance for interpersonal acceptance. Therefore, this theory can explain the effects of social identity, interpersonal behavior and emotions, and even clinical disorders.
Another fundamental theory in explaining self-esteem is Terror Management Theory. This theory posits that people have anxiety and distress over their mortality. Therefore they try to sustain the belief of their significance and contribution to the universe. This theory, therefore, suggests that self-esteem does not serve a particular purpose but depends on whether one’s social environment satisfies fundamental needs. This means that self-esteem is viewed as a coping mechanism to reduce the anxiety and stress of death. Therefore, according to this theory, culture and upbringing are fundamental in informing self-esteem. Through the various agents of socialization, people form norms and views that become fundamental to their individuality and how they view the world. In this sense, the theory explains why people with high self-esteem fairly own relatively well in life compared to those with low self-esteem.
Self-determination theory is a perspective that links human motivation, personality, and optimal functioning. Within this theory, other categorizations explain the human need for self-actualization. These include the basic needs theory, cognitive evaluation theory, causality orientations theory, organismic integration theory, and goal contents theory. Therefore, this theory suggests that people are motivated to grow and change when connection, autonomy, and competence. In this sense, human beings are born with the inherent need to master, explore and absorb all in their surroundings to have high self-esteem. This implies that one’s well-being is enhanced in a surrounding with personal growth, basic need, and validity. Therefore the self-determination theory helps understand the things that motivate an individual. Additionally, this theory suggests that each individual has different goals and performance, therefore, varies based on their self-esteem and wellness.
We can make several deductions by analyzing these theories in how social media influences self-esteem in our everyday lives. To start, the negative effects of social media on self-esteem are displayed through various studies, on television, and in our personal lives. Social media has been linked to anxiety, a high level of loneliness, decreased social skills, narcissism, and depression. This means that social media creates a paradoxical effect where choices are an illusion making it harder to find viable options. On different social platforms, most people post or portray their best lives. Individuals filter what is posted online by posting only what they feel is desirable. This social pressure to keep up has led many people, especially adolescents, to maintain or sustain a particular life. Those who feel like they cannot keep up with the trends and demands of today end up being affected immensely.
To add to this, social media has provided an avenue for cyberbullying. Since the image is a fundamental part of social media, many people hide behind the screen to bully others. Many young people have found themselves on the receiving end of the bullies through internet trolls, making them feel like they are not enough. This particular situation has led to many teenagers having self-doubt and questioning their appearance and worth, which has led to low self-esteem. As a ripple effect, individuals continue to suffer from depression because of feelings of worthlessness, and in worst cases, this has led to an increased number of suicides. Therefore, these examples from our daily lives demonstrate the detrimental effects of social media in increased mental health problems, especially internalizing problems.
Although the various physiological theories try to explain the concept of self-esteem, in this context, the Sociometer theory can best be used to explain the relationship between social media and self-esteem. The sociometer theory is focused on the need for social inclusion and belonging. Many people feel left out when considering social media because they cannot afford a certain lifestyle or keep up with what they see as the approved norm in social media. This urge to form meaningful relationships and the need for inclusion in a particular social grouping makes individuals go out of their way to achieve the ideal image online. For many who fail to do so, they are left feeling shameful and helpless, traits that are fundamental in low self-esteem. On the flip side, this theory can also explain narcissistic behavior and bullying in the age of technology. When one feels unfulfilled or unaccomplished, they act aggressively toward another to quench their need for attention and social acceptance.
While the sociometer theory best explains self-esteem in social media, my observation contradicts the terror management theory. I agree with the notion that self-esteem is directly associated with how one is socialized. When one grows up in an encouraging and happy environment, they are more likely to have higher self-esteem than one who lacks the care of a caregiver. However, I do not think this theory adequately explains how social media impacts self-esteem, especially when discussing the role of culture in self-esteem. There has been a mixture of cultures with globalization, and what people identify with varies greatly. Today, many people want to be identified with Western culture portrayed through social media. With weak cultural ties, many people have adopted new norms that might not be acceptable to their culture, affecting their self-esteem.
In conclusion, social media has shifted how people view their worth and the world. With the advancement of technology, social media has made it easier for people worldwide to communicate and share information in second. Although these great inventions have many positive impacts, psychologists argue that social media plays a fundamental role in influencing one’s attitude. Depending on an individual, social media can either help to boost or lower one’s self-esteem. In this paper, however, I focused on the negative impact of social media on attitudes and how it has led to low self-esteem, especially among young adults and adolescents. To get the severity of the matter, I analyzed this relationship using three psychological theories of self-esteem. These theories include the Sociometer theory, Terror Management theory, and Self-determination theory. From my observation and experience, the sociometer and self-determination theories are the best theories for understanding self-esteem and social media. Therefore, it is evident that social media greatly impacts one’s self-esteem.
Leary, M. R. (2012). Sociometer theory. In P. A. M. Van Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of theories of social psychology (pp. 151–159). Sage Publications.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2012). Self-determination theory. In P. A. M. Van Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of theories of social psychology (pp. 416–436). Sage Publications Ltd