Thursday, June 14, 2012

Is social media causing low self-esteem in women?

 Image Source
Today we are focusing on giving our mind a workout, with some thought provoking insights into the world of social media and its effect on how we think about ourselves and others.

Most of you would be very familiar with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr etc. It goes without saying that most people would have at least one social media account (and some of us have a good deal of them). Social media is a great tool to help people connect with others and through platforms like Facebook, many of you are able to keep in contact with family and friends all over the world, or follow your favorite celebrity on Twitter, or browse through amazing photographs on Tumblr - very cool! :)

Social media has changed the way we all use the internet and its intentions are to connect people, which is a great notion. However, social media also brings out some other interesting "trends", which highlights some important issues regarding users personal esteem and their "true self". Now, more than ever before, people are weighing their self-worth on how many Facebook "Fans" they have, if anyone "Liked" their post or how bad they felt when didn't have any messages in their inbox today telling them how totally inspirational they were! (This one I overheard while standing in line at the movie theater - seriously!)

Furthermore, there seems to be an increasing trend of the "Sending you all a sneaky bikini/underwear/abs/topless/nude shot" as if it was taken without their knowledge, or that the camera just happened to snap a photo of them, while they were holding it, with perfect hair and makeup, posing into the mirror, with an Instagram filter over it, with a matching pair of expensive underwear on...yes you get the picture! It was so "unexpected" that they had to post it to 15 000 people immediately! And re-tweet it for weeks after!

After chatting with some young women recently, they expressed their concerns about this type of thing happening on their social networks. Seeing other girls who posted staged "Kardashian-esque" photos of themselves day after day, updating their status multiple times per hour with what sounded like a life of grandeur, as if they themselves were starring in their own award winning reality show (the "reality" part is ironic!) 

After viewing this type of behavior, these women truly believed that these other people's realities must be so amazing and that their own lives/bodies/activities could not live up to these standards. In turn, what once was a place for seeing photos of their friends holiday in Brazil, quickly became the place in their minds that only these far more "popular" people could exist. 

However for these women, they found it interesting to see that while they thought they were suffering from low self-esteem, it was really the "poster" who needed the validation from others about their lifestyle or body. If no-one "Liked" their picture or told them they were amazing, then how were they going to get through the day!

"Researcher Soraya Mehdizadeh from York University in Canada asked 100 students, 50 male and 50 female, aged between 18 and 25 about their Facebook habits.
They all took psychology tests to measure their levels of narcissism, which the study defined as ‘a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and an exaggerated sense of self-importance’.
Those who scored higher on the narcissism test checked their Facebook pages more often each day than those who did not.
There was also a difference between men and women – men generally promoted themselves by written posts on their Facebook page while women tended to carefully select the pictures in their profile." (Published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behaviour And Social Networking).

For women, young women especially, it can be hard these days to navigate oneself through the gauntlet of media that is fed to you each day, not to mention through the countless images are flashed before your eyes. There are whole websites dedicated to "thinspirations" and "fitspirations", not to mention thousands of hashtags, bitly links and Instagram uploads, all there telling you what to look like, what not to look like, how to live your life etc. It can be very overwhelming!

So how do you get through all this information and visual stimuli without going crazy and thinking you are not good enough?

1. Don't think too much into what other people post, the photos they put up (especially their "sneaky bikini/underwear/abs/topless/nude shots" (haha) or their supposedly Kardashian type lifestyles. They need the admiration of others to fuel their own purposes and that is something that they have to deal with. (It would also be very time-consuming posting, reposting, retweeting etc. all day long, so think of all the extra time YOU have to actually DO real things with your life).

2. A lot of images you will see have had careful planning. There are people that want you to think they look totally polished 24 hours a day! We all know this is not the case, so don't stress out. Just like in the magazines, a bit of editing or an Instagram filter will do wonders for a photo and it can look totally different to the original one. Also I have seen a lot of people post old photos of themselves doing fun things as if they happened last night, to give the illusion that they are living a nonstop rockstar life. Sad but true!

3. Find true role models who you look up to! There are plenty of fabulous people out there that can inspire you to be the best person you can be.

4. Let go of the obsession with who "Liked" your post, who commented on your wall (or if you are someone that has a public page) how many "fans" you have. Unless you are a business, then it really doesn't matter. There are no popularity police and judging yourself on what other people think of the photo you posted yesterday is not a productive way to live.

5. If you are someone that finds yourself constantly over exaggerating your lifestyle on social media then stop for a moment and think about why you are doing it? Is it to make yourself feel important? Is it to gain the admiration of others? Is it to give the illusion that you are living Richard Branson's life? (haha)

Don't get caught up in the "illusions" of social media. Believe in yourself and don't be distracted by what others are doing. Find some "true" role models and work on making your own life a fabulous one!

Be fit, well & vibrant :)