Although social media has become a wonderful platform to connect with loved ones, celebrities, journalists and one another, it also has it consequences related to self-esteem. During counseling, I often hear about experiences with cyber-bullying, or individuals feeling negatively about themselves as a result of comparing what they see others posting and experiencing on social media to their own lives.
Regardless of the many benefits of social media, especially from a professional stand-point, research has shown that 60% of people using social media reported that it has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way, 50% reported social media having negative effects on their relationships and 80% reported that is easier to be deceived by others through their sharing on social media. Those are some high percentages, and not very positive results!
Through my own personal and professional experience, here are some tips that I give clients to help try and separate themselves from being sucked in to the depths of social media.
1. Although social media can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family, try to maintain the majority of each relationship utilizing more meaningful contact (face-to-face, phone calls, video chat, etc). Social media is impersonal, and messages can become misconstrued through the form of text. This also helps lessen feelings of loneliness.
2. Try not to, under any circumstances, engage in arguments or fights on social media. If there is an argument or debate that can be had in person (or avoided altogether), then choose that route. A big source of stress for people when it comes to social media is the increase in political debates. Debates are great. But social media is not the place for them. Try to be kind and considerate in everything that you say, no matter if it is from behind a screen or not. There is no reason to create conflict, hurt another person, or ruin friendships over a difference in beliefs.
3. Remember that what you see your friends or acquaintances posting on social media is not always necessarily an accurate description of their life. I don't say that to knock any of your "friends" on social media. But, for the most part, people try to portray the best and happiest parts of themselves (to try and build their own self-confidence). If you find yourself scrolling through various social media platforms and consistently feeling worse and worse about yourself, it's time to put the phone/tablet/computer down and think about what you are getting out of comparing yourself to others. Probably nothing.
4. Your social media relationship status (or lack thereof) is not a true representation of your actual relationship. Often I hear about fights that couples have regarding their differences over their "relationship status" on Facebook, or them "liking" photos of other people on Instagram. If that is the case for you, then there is a deeper issue with trust and security in your relationship that I suggest be explored. Don't allow social media to cause or worsen issues in your relationship. Have an open and honest conversation with your partner about any concerns you may have, but keep it focused on how you feel, rather than what is portrayed on social media.
5. If you are being cyber-bullied or experiencing a crisis with your mental health, get off social media and call a loved one you trust, your doctor, your therapist or call 1-800-829-0067 for cyber bullying / 1-800-273-8255 for suicide prevention. As difficult as it can be, remove yourself from the source and reach out to the appropriate resources for help.