Social Media is a Very Poor Measure of Self-Worth
Written by: Sam Hughes
As seen in the February issue of Lazy Faire magazine
Social media has become an intrinsic part of our everyday lives. Between Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and Snapchat, billions of people are now actively participating in social media. While social media has some fantastic functions that massively increase our ability to communicate with each other and to engage with society as a whole, it has some significant problems associated with it as well. One of the primary issues I believe social media develops, and in furtherance to the mental health crises we’re seeing flare up now, is the common attachment of social media success to self worth. When you live on your cell phone, you are constantly plugged into Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and some other form of social media. Several research pieces have pegged social media use using various barometers, with some pieces claiming up to 9 hours of use a day, with other pieces claiming teens check their social media upwards of 100 times a day.
The evidence that we are spending an excessive amount of time on social media is clear and abundant. What is less well measured is the impact that this has on mental health and self-worth, two closely linked concepts.
When you become absorbed in any activity, your success with that activity becomes associated with how you view yourself and your achievements. Take school, for instance. Most university students put a huge amount of effort into achieving the highest grades that they can. That effort and time you devote to an activity and the subsequent outcome has a direct effect on what value you attribute to that outcome. There’s a reason why getting an A in BUS 201 is more fulfilling than an A in Econ 102. When those same parameters are applied to social media, the potential from issues becomes apparent.
When you go on Facebook, how many likes have your statuses received? How many people have retweeted your tweet? For most people, the answer is, not many. This is one of the main issues with the integration of social media into our societies. We add and share content from our lives with the people in our networks. We want people to believe that we are all dynamic, interesting, and intriguing individuals, and that other people look forward to the content that we share.
But here’s the rub: most people don’t care about you specifically. This is not a reflection on you, but rather individuals as a whole. Do you care when your lab partner from Bio 107 posts a picture of his new quad? Or when your high school acquaintance goes off and joins a religious cult? Typically not. This awareness leads back to the solution to equating social media with self-worth. You don’t care about anyone else, so why should anyone else care about you? No, you haven’t got 324 likes on your most recent Facebook photo, because you haven’t got 324 people who care enough to cling onto your every social media post. That doesn’t mean that you’re a loser or a worthless person. Nobody has 324 friends. Even the celebrities and public figures who get large amounts of social media attention don’t have that many friends. You would be better served by ungluing your eyes from your phone and looking around you. Your self worth can be determined by a lot of different factors. Maybe your real-life friends. Maybe your grades. Maybe your bank account. It doesn’t really matter where you get your measure of self-worth from. But it is prudent to avoid equating social media success with self-worth. No one cares about your most recent cat picture, so you have nothing to be proud of there. But you can be proud of your grades, your family, your volunteer service, whatever. In those cases, your self worth is determined by you, and that’s always going to be the superior from of self-appreciation and development.