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How Social Media Affects our Self-Esteem

Reality, the truth of who we are, what we look like, the environment in which we live, and how we present ourselves is easily distorted online.

This impacts us every time we see images of others altered by apps that literally allow anyone to present a false face to the world. It’s no wonder feelings of inadequacy and jealousy cause us to feel bad when we are exposed to a flood of images that have been tweaked, tucked and softened to present unrealistic images of beautiful people.

Seeing all this we think if everyone is using readily available inexpensive phone apps to erase acne and laugh lines, why shouldn’t we?

The answer is fairly simple, but requires us to examine how we are feeling in the moment and how to alter the way we feel about ourselves going forward. If we tailor ourselves for a digital platform in order to gain likes, there may be an immediate temporary reward, but the idea that we need to be smoother out and face tuned in order to gain that attention we crave comes at the cost of our self esteem and self worth.

Apps like Facetune have realized that we are catching on to the disingenuous representations we see in still images so now they provide an option that allows users to apply all those filters and corrections in video format. Want bigger eyes, a smaller nose and perfect skin? So long as you only care about your digital presence you can have all those things in video form to “prove” to viewers that you are who you have crafted in photo form.

How we value our talents, our homes, and our lifestyles are detrimentally impacted by staged images. While pinning ideas on a Pinterest board can be used in a positive way to collect ideas, these are the things I want for my home, this is how I’d like my closet to look - we often end up spending far more time creating digital representations of idealized dreams than we spend doing the work to make the changes in our homes and lives that we could accomplish if we were satisfied with realistic expectations. It’s also so much easier to pin images while lying on the couch than getting up and doing the work. We spend our energy on what we perceive as “planning” and end up with nothing substantial to show for it.

Recognize that social media is just that, media. And media is designed to support the sales of advertised products. “How to Organize Your Closet” pins are connected to organization units you can purchase, or services you could hire which promise to optimize your life by optimizing your closet flow. Influencers don’t make money from likes, they need likes to get sponsors who monetized “social” media accounts in order to sell their products to an audience who had been made to feel inadequate. Scrolling through Instagram every fourth image or video is an ad, so next time you’re scrolling take a closer look at what is being advertised to you.

Camisoles that smooth over your form to give you that perfect silhouette! Exercise programs with accompanying apps so you can bulk up, slim down, or tone up any part of your body that you don’t like all with less than half an hour spent a day! Hair products that promise to give you maximum growth and shine or prevent a receding hairline! Have the images of the genetically blessed got you down? Buy buy buy and maybe you’ll feel less bad about not measuring up to unrealistic images. But don’t worry, if that doesn’t help there are plenty of ads for therapy apps that promise to help you overcome all of this.

Knowledge is power. The next time you’re on a social media platform like Instagram take a minute to look at what is advertised to you specifically.

Try to recognize how what you follow impacts the ads you see, how what you click, even accidentally, informs the algorithms which function to grab your attention, and profit from the negative feelings we all develop when we compare ourselves to highly tailored and staged representations of life.

Remember social media that projects idealized lives is intended not only to capture and consume your attention and time, but it is designed to make you more likely to spend money on things you might otherwise never be concerned about.


Track how your purchases are influenced by social media, put a value on your time and track the expense of social media consumption.

Set a half hour timer, fifteen minutes if you don’t usually spend that much time, then, put down your phone, step away from the screen, and check in with your body. Do you feel energized or drained? Empowered or helpless? Has your self esteem and self worth altered?

Write down how you are feeling, what is on your mind.

Spend the same amount of time you just spent in front of the screen doing something else. Pick something you’re passionate about and spend as much time on that, then ask yourself the same questions.

  • Energized or drained

  • Empowered or Helpless

  • Has your self esteem and self worth altered from the last time you checked in after you were plugged into social media?

If you don’t have the time for this, then ask yourself how you have the time for spending it engaged in scrolling social media. Change can be rewarding, but it isn’t easy. How you value your time reflects how you value yourself. Perhaps escapism via the internet is a coping mechanism for you, trust that there may be healthier ways to escape in the real world through creating art or doing what you love.

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