Social Media and Self-perception

Engagement in social media use is a prevalent part of how we spend our time. A way to fill time, to “decompress,” to avoid, to entertain, and to connect. 

But how often do we really take time to reflect on the impact of social media use on our lives?

Are we being responsible consumers and creators of content? 

Is your use of social media an asset or a liability to your overall mental health?

Researchers have been focused more and more on the impacts and use of social media. Research generally indicates that there are pros and cons of social media. It is a wonderful tool for connection and community creation. It is extremely powerful to know that you are not alone in the world and in your experience. In this way, social media is an asset to daily life and can positively impact mental health. 

A predominant liability of social media use that has been identified in research is distortions in self-perception. One study found that photo editing was highly linked with lower overall self-esteem and higher rates of body comparison and self-objectification (Ozimek et al., 2023). Another study found that social media use is linked to increase rates of social comparison. Specifically, those researchers found that materialism driven by social media can negatively impact self-esteem (Ryan et al., 2023). The experience of FOMO (fear of missing out) is intensified with social media use and this heightened increase has been linked to impaired quality of life (Dam et al., 2023).

These studies are the tip of the iceberg and highlight the theme of social media distorting our perception of self and how we fit into our community. If you are not careful, social media use can lead to a separation from your own values and goals.

It’s time to take a good look at how you are using social media. Does your social media content, followers, or accounts followed reflect your core values? Are they a representation of your goals? Are you still uniquely and wonderfully you… or are your trying to conform into someone you are not? 

We are all messy, complex, and worthy of love and belonging. We are allowed to have multiple facets, not all of which are “pretty” or “perfect.” Let’s normalize using social media responsibly to reflect real people, real lives.

Ozimek, P., Lainas, S., Bierhoff, H.-W., & Rohmann, E. (2023). How photo editing in social media shapes self-perceived attractiveness and self-esteem via self-objectification and physical appearance comparisons. BMC Psychology, 11(1), NA. 

Ruan, Chenhan, et al. “More friends on SNS, more materialism? The moderating roles of self-esteem and social comparison orientation.” PLoS ONE, vol. 18, no. 5, 10 May 2023, p. e0283723.

Dam, Vu Anh Trong, et al. “Quality of life and mental health of adolescents: Relationships with social media addiction, Fear of Missing out, and stress associated with neglect and negative reactions by online peers.” PLoS ONE, vol. 18, no. 6, 7 June 2023, p. e0286766.