People spend multiple hours a day looking at social media sites. There are many positive reasons to be on social media. Families can connect over long distances and stay in touch, grandparents love to see photos of their grandkids, high school friends can reconnect, people who feel alienated or different can find support community with people they identify with and social media can help people find jobs through online networking. Being on social media has also become a job itself for some people who gain followers and advertisers to make money.
However, there are negative consequences to this type of interaction. Researchers are just finally beginning to understand the long-term effects of social media use. For the first time ever, a generation is growing up not having known a life without this type of online connection.
Negative Impacts of Social Media
1. Images don’t portray reality.
Social media is a place full of filters, attractive angles, the right lighting and millions of takes. Online models, fitness stars and personalities take dozens and sometimes hundreds of shots to get exactly the right photo to post. That photo has to include the perfect make up, the perfect facial expression and the perfect sucked-in stomach.
Blemishes and cellulite are filtered out and thighs get cut down in the editing process. However, people still compare themselves to people in these photos. This makes them feel like they are lacking in some way. Even when the viewer knows the person in the photo does not usually look like that, they still make the comparisons.
2. Fear of missing out.
People display their best lives on social media. It is full of photos of vacations in exotic locations, hikes down the beaten path, aerial views from rooftop bars and perfectly laid out meals at trendy restaurants. Scrolling through endless photos of people living what seems to be their best lives can weigh a person down. Viewers feel like they are missing out or are not fun enough.
What they forget, though, is that these images are carefully crafted and shared with an agenda– creating the illusion of a perfect life. What these images do not show are pre-coffee bedhead selfies, the hours of time spent in an airport after a flight is delayed or the mundane commute to the office. Social media highlights the best of life and people forget that. Instead, they compare their lives to these magical experiences and feel anxious about what they are (or are not) accomplishing themselves.
3. You start to retreat.
In a 2013 research study, scientists concluded that the more time a person spends online, the greater their decline in face-to-face communication with family and peers. This lack of contact leads to feelings of loneliness and depression. Therefore, while social media may make people feel connected to the world around them, especially because of their connection to people they may have never met otherwise, it also causes them to lose in-person contact with friends and family. While these other feelings of comparison and inadequacies are happening because of the staged images on social media, people are losing their outlets to build their own self-esteem.
If you would like to learn more about how to help people build their self-esteem in spite of what they see on social media, consider working in the field of psychology or counselor. The Master of Science in Mental Health and Wellness degree at Grand Canyon University is a great start.