Social Media Use & Self-Esteem: 7 Ways to Avoid Self-Esteem Pitfalls of Social Media by Dr. Haley Perlus
A CNN article published stating that Instagram’s algorithm began recommending an individual teenage girl's account to follow others that endorsed or showed extreme dieting. Although the account was not “real” and was created by a Senator’s staff member, it was meant to prove the “targeting” done by Instagram to young girls.
The CNN article highlights how Instagram’s algorithm can promote harmful content to its users and how social media encourages social comparison. Instagram recommends accounts to users based on recent searches made and topics Instagram thinks you’re interested in, or the accounts you already follow. When users, especially those who are young, encounter accounts that promote unhealthy behaviors, trends or goals, this can harm their self-esteem and mental health.
Here are tips on how to avoid self-esteem pitfalls of social media:
1. Stop Beauty Bashing Yourself
Obsessively looking at an influencer’s bathing suit shots, pictures of plastic surgery before and afters, dramatic weight loss through questionable methods, can all contribute to a condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder. This is a mental health disorder where you hyper focus on one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance, even though the “flaw” might be invisible or minor to others. In turn, this causes avoidance of social and other situations.
If you are someone who is prone to being critical about your physical appearance, avoid accounts that will trigger you.
2. Challenge Your Negative Self-Talk
If you spend time on social media comparing yourself to others and are constantly putting yourself down, first, become aware that you are having these thoughts. Then realize that social media is not reality. It’s important to understand that we are constantly fed pictures of people at their best or edited/filtered photos that can mask life's less-than-perfect moments. This puts us at risk for unhealthy social comparison and can make people feel that they are not doing well in relation. To overcome unhealthy social comparison and negative self-talk, challenge your thoughts. Assess where these negative comparisons are stemming from and shift your perspective. Train your mind to focus on what you love most about yourself and your life and practice gratitude.
3. Take Control of Your Feed
Try and fill your Instagram feed with pages and people who make you feel good. Unfollow accounts, people or places that bring your mood down and make you feel negative about yourself. The result will be a detoxed feed with accounts that bring you joy or inspire you.
4. Turn Your Jealousy Into Motivation
Scrolling through social media can make anyone feel jealous, but that feeling can be an important step toward success. If you see something you want, whether it’s an account posting a trendy outfit or a new car, you can channel that envy into devising a plan. For example, if you see a post that makes you want a nicer car, you can do your research and figure out ways to save money, make payment plans and push yourself to achieve what others have. Negative feelings of jealousy and resentment are normal, but it’s up to you what you do with them.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Social Media Break
Remind yourself that it can be healthy to turn off your phone for 10 minutes or avoid checking social media for a while. Taking a social media hiatus from these apps, no matter how long, can lower your stress levels and improve life satisfaction. Even limiting yourself to a certain amount of time online can help you reconnect and enhance social interactions. For example, you could make it a goal not to check your phone during a meal with friends or on a date. You could even challenge yourself and leave your phone at home when going for a run or find a time-consuming hobby that keeps you from constantly reaching for your phone.
6. Remember Real Life
Don’t forget that using social media doesn’t replace real life interactions and gatherings. Just because you keep up with family and friends through their posts, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t coordinate plans or check in with them. Focusing on your real-life relationships can help you form a sense of purpose and belonging and make you feel happier.
7. Focus on Your Strengths
When we compare ourselves to others, we usually focus on their strengths and our weaknesses. Being able to focus on your own strengths and see your true value is essential to your self-confidence. When you see a post that makes you feel inadequate, try writing down three of your strengths. For example, you could write, “I am great at my job” or “I am very independent.” This way, you can recognize your accomplishments, talents and strengths, practice positive thinking and understand what makes you unique.
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