A few months ago, a good friend of mine deleted most of her social site accounts. I could not figure out why anyone would do such a thing bearing in mind that I found it fun and a superb platform for meeting new friends and exploring ideas and life. I decided to get firsthand information from her, and her response caught me unawares. She explained that she had quit the social sites because they were a source of distress. She could not bear the pressure of taking the ‘right’ photos to fit in, wearing the ‘right’ guise, with ‘right’ outfit, at the ‘right’ time and with the ‘right’ people. With the advancement of communication technologies that occurred in early 2000, the manner in which individuals interacted took a new phase.
The latest internet addition known the social media enhanced people’s interactions. The interactions increased since people can connect and participate in a wide range of online communities with other users from all parts of the world. Indeed, the world has now become a global village, thanks to social media. More and more social media sites emerge each and every day, which is a factor that has changed the target audience. What was initially meant for grownups who could afford to buy personal computers has of late become accessible to the youths, adolescents, and even kids. One only needs to have a mobile phone with internet applications, and they are good-to-go. Rather than hanging out with friends at ice cream joints, at the skating ring or in restaurants, individuals are connecting with their visual friends in social media sites such as Myspace, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to name but a few.
Proponents of social media hold that it has enabled people to meet and interact across space and distance, stay in touch with family and friends, do business and has also enhanced learning and spreading of information. Also, they say that it has facilitated political and social change while increasing access to educational materials. On the other hand, those that are against it argue that it has presented a platform where people are bullied, demeaned by other social media users and harassed (Cheng, 36). Social media has negative effects on people’s feeling of self-worth. As people continue to use these sites, the need to fit in and belong becomes an important facet of their lives(Valkenburg et al., 584-590. Regardless of whether they realize it or not, spending a great deal of time on social media affects individuals’ sense of self-worth. Not only do they want to enhance their digital identity to fit in, but they also compare themselves to others who they consider having ideal physiques and lifestyles.
Social media offers a unique platform that people use for a wide range of purposes including enjoyment and pleasure, creating awareness of products, passing of information and data and meeting old friends. Other reasons include the feeling of belonging and affiliation, goal attainment, self-identity and accepted the behavior. Studies have shown that adults, youths, and children are currently making use of social media at different levels. Youths and teenagers are the most affected by the use of this technology. In the United States, for example, 74% adults and youths were making use of social media by 2014, which entailed LinkedIn, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They would share thoughts, music, links and photos, develop biographical profiles, do research and interact with both friends and strangers among other activities.
On a normal day, more than 70% of the American people log in to social media. More than 40% have been shown to log on to the various sites for multiple times a day. Although every person has his or her perception of making use of the social media, the main basic reasons are to kill boredom, pass time and check on updates, the effect of logging on to these social sites have a detrimental impact on one’s self-worth. Frequently, what social media users will find are unrealistic and glorified images and photos of physiques and lifestyles, which are factors that make them question their appearances and attitudes, especially if the users are youths and teenagers. The feeling of self-worth, which refers to the ability to have respect and confidence as well as self-appreciation, become integral features of their lives. When social media users view others have better physiques, more friends, more likes on every comment and update and better photos of magnificent lifestyles, they begin to compare themselves to others. In most cases, they will tend to feel inferior and develop negative self-concept about themselves. Not only does this have an impact on their attitude towards life, but it greatly ruins their perception of self-worthiness(Cheng, 36).
According to Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers’s theories of personality, human beings have the basic predisposition to make himself or herself better to realize their optimum capabilities and potential (Frick, 87) and (Nicholas, 102). According to their schools of thought, they referred to this as the attainment of self-actualization. They argued that the podium of self-actualization was achieved at the stance when the ideal individual and the individual’s perception of self-worthiness and image were at par. At this time and point, the individual was thought to be a completely functioning person. Every individual under heaven has a critical inward voice that presents a negative filter of the manner in which we view and reflect our lives. Various occurrences in life are known to alter this inward voice such as depression, trauma, and stress. As such, social media has the capacity to alter how we view and reflect our lives. Not only is social media extremely pervasive, but it is also an undertaking that requires individuals to actively participate.
To have a strong social media persona, one has to post photos and traits that are positive as opposed to the negative ones as no one wishes to advertise their faults. Rarely do we post unflattering images and content. The will and desire to ape contentment and happiness as well as glamorous lifestyles has caused us to put our troubles into our subconscious minds, ignoring the impact it has on our self-worth and health. Most people think that posting images and contents of who they are is like accepting defeat. It is due to this rule of control of how we are viewed that most people have been fooled into accepting and believing that the lives of their virtual friends are better than theirs, thus causing hefty metal turmoil and degradation of self-worth.
Proponents of social media assert that it offers a platform where information and sensitization spread faster and reaches enormous numbers of people as compared to other forms of media. As a matter of fact, more than 50% individuals get to hear about the breaking news through the social media. Also, conservative media personnel use a wide range of social media to do research on the various topics that are later aired in our television sets and printed in newsletters. These include WhatsApp, Facebook, and LinkedIn as well as Twitter, to name but a few. Studies have also shown that social media is the top source of news for the American population as compared to radio and newsletters (Valkenburg et al., 584-590). Therefore, proponents feel that social media should be encouraged across space, time and distance as it is good for our society.
Conversely, social media is very unreliable as it enhances the spread of false information, gossip, and rumors. For example, in the case of an accident that involved a celebrity or a prominent person, people make the news juicy by giving false information such as the person is dead, with the aim of attracting huge numbers of comments and likes in their updates. Not only can this result in chaos and mayhem, but it can significantly affect the self-worth and personality of the involved party. Imagine waking up from a comma, just to watch or listen to the news headlines that you died two days ago. How do you change the situation and convince the members of public that what they are watching or learning from the newsprints and social media is false and untrue? Not only does such a scenario lead to incredibility of the news source, but it would cause great psychological turmoil to the concerned party.
The need to belong has been showcased by various proponents of social media. It is a phenomenon that is characterized by the altruistic nature of human beings to feel socially accepted and loved. In human beings, the need to be accepted and loved is essential for people’s motivation to create and maintain a lasting, significant constructive inter and intrapersonal relationships. Social media creates a unique space where individuals can explore and exploit this need through the use of facilities and conveniences offered by social media sites that enhances interaction, data, expression podiums and potential of acquiring social approval while influencing virtual friends.
The need to be socially accepted and loved can stem from three main categories (Baumeister & Leary, 497-529). These include inclusion, which refers to the need fit in or takes in others in a circle of friends. Affection is the second reason that explains faction-seeking behavior in human beings. It refers to the need to feel loved by other people and to love. The last basic need is control, which is the need to have power and authority over others or exert power over the self to other individuals. Owing to the fact that people’s need to be loved and accepted is variable and different among individuals, their impact in joining and participating in social media are also variable. In other words, the degree and magnitude of the effect of social media on self-worth and confidence as well as self-esteem varies from individual to individual.
Despite the fact that social media presents a platform where people attain or fulfill their need to feel loved, accepted and appreciated, it also creates a podium where this need is dissatisfied. When persons post pictures or content on the social sites, they expect to get some feedback, either positive or negative. In a certain social media site, some people get more comments and likes than others. Some updates do not receive comments at all. This makes the person who has posted to feel ignored, which insinuates that they either do not fit in or are not loved. Such a scenario can be a source of depression for social media users. Social media users feel alienated and lonely, which can result in eating disorders.
While some individuals result to overeating, others, especially women, become anorexic that is refusing to eat so as to become thin or developing bulimia nervosa where they may eat and force themselves to vomit and maintain that ideal body shape that is appealing to their peer(OʼKeeffe et al., 800-804). This lack of self-acceptance that is mostly associated with feminine media users has a wide range of effects ranging from low self-esteem to lack of confidence to the lack of self-worth. Although social media per se does not contain all the components that contribute to the lack of self-worth and eating disorders, it creates a superb environment where behaviors and disordered thoughts and perceptions thrive and flourish. Social media portrays the ideal female body as thin, blonde and with a fair complexion, which is a factor that triggers ladies ‘worth their salt’ to have a tendency to work towards ‘perfection’. They, therefore, develop eating disorders to attain the recipe for contentment and happiness as well as online validation, which is thinness and fair complexion (Vogel et al., 206-222).. Not only does the body dissatisfaction lead to the lack of happiness and low life satisfaction, but it greatly reduces life quality and is a catalyst for various mental disorders.
Proponents of social media also hold that they are useful sites where people are empowered on social change and behavior not only on a community level but also at regional and international levels. This is because it has made possible for individuals of all races and walks of life, from distance and space to meet, support each other and share ideas on the same platform. Not only are business ideas shared, but social media also helps people to assist other individuals with dire needs such as poverty and illnesses. Social media also enhances buying and selling of goods and services whereby the seller connects to the buyer, thanks to the online platforms. However, study after study has also shown that social media facilitates online crimes and cyber bullying. Sexting and glamorization of drug and substance abuse, as well as alcohol use, are some of the modern cybercrimes. Possession and distribution of pornographic pictures and films have been restricted to all parts of the world. Between the year 2008 and 2009, the American law enforcement agency recorded nearly 3500 incidences of these cases, with most of them occurring in teenagers and the youth. In another study that explored the linkages amid social media and abuse of alcohol and other illegal substances, it was found that 70% of people who use social media are three times likely to abuse alcohol more than those who do not log onto the online sites (Valkenburg et al., 584-590). It was also revealed that they are two times likely to use bang and get exposed to pornographic videos and pictures while under the influence.
Research has also demonstrated that all people, irrespective of their age, experience cyber bullying at least once in their lifetime, including adults. Although kids and teenagers are the most affected population, grownups also do experience cyber bullying ranging from social to workplace aggression to familial arenas, being updated on social media. Not only do these experiences make the victims unhappy, but they also make them restless, anxious and can make them develop a wide range of anxiety disorders, which impedes their health, wellness, and self-worth(Stefanone et al., 41-49). The online pressure leads to anxiety, which in turn disrupts individuals sleep patterns, causing serious mental health problems.In fact, researchers have found that people who make use of social media and had a high emotional investment in it, especially during the night, exhibited low sleep quality, which is a condition known as insomnia, suffered from elevated rates of anxiety and had a higher possibility of developing stress and depression.
Finally, social media has been shown to be a major cause of jealousy and envy, especially for people who share a common background. Imagine watching your friends update photos of travel and leisure, abilities and success in vocational life while you are leading a miserable life. To the person leading a low life, these posts may be interpreted negatively or viewed as a way of bragging off. Although this may not be the intention of the persons who post their stylish photos, they can be a major cause of life dissatisfaction and envy to their friends and acquaintances. In most social media sites, one follows the posts of other people to see how they are doing, which is meant to produce positive results. However, when individuals engage in the passive following, they view this as a way of self-promotion, which triggers envy and jealous. Indeed, this feeling surpasses the feeling of lack of attention and negative feedback(Park&Jennifer, 184-203). As a result, the envious persons reacts with greater self-promotion content. This can lead to a vicious cycle referred to as self-promotion or impression management envy spiral with more and more self- promotion content being posted with the aim of outdoing other virtual friends. Consequently, an envy-driven trait of the social media platform creates an atmosphere that can even be more pronounced. Reacting with jealous and envy of others lowers our self-worth and makes the individual feel bad about themselves.
Social media has played an important role in our lives ever since its invention in the early 2000s. It has enabled people to meet and connect, interact and share educative materials, has enhanced businesses and promotion of the new product in the marketplace and had shaped our enabled individual to fulfill their intrinsic need to belong. Indeed, this technological advancement has made the world a global village where people from all walks of life, across space and distance, meet and interact while sharing the idea. Although social media has had various positive impacts in our contemporary world, it also has major drawbacks. Social media causes negative effects on self-worth individuals. Not only does it lower people’s self-esteem and confidence, but it is a significant cause of other health complication ranging from the general wellness to eating disorders to panic and anxiety disorders to insomnia. Indeed, social media leads to poor quality life and is an important source of unhappiness and discontentment.
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