All too often I read about cyberbullying, low self-esteem issues associated with social media, vanity, and even anxiety and depression that can come from being too hyper-focused on the posts that others make on various digital platforms. I’m not saying that these concepts do not warrant some very serious consideration, that they are not important, or that they should be swept under the rug, far from it, in fact. I believe all warrant thoughtful discussion. However, I feel it’s time to perhaps take a bit of a different approach, and focus on the positive ways in which social media can affect us.
My entire life I have suffered from some seriously low self-esteem issues. Growing up, I was always that kid that had just a little too average of a height, a little too pudgy, a little too geeky, a little too quiet, and sometimes a little too mature. Due to this combination of factors, I always felt just a little out of place. Nowadays I am a bit more secure (thankfully), but I have to admit, that more often than not, I, like most people I know, have those days in which I am absolutely shrouded in self-doubt. One would think that on those days, when I log on to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, and see all the (often) glamourized posts, I would feel even worse, but the truth is, I don’t.
There is one reason for that: I’ve chosen to follow some genuinely happy and supportive accounts. Am I feeling a little down in the dumps and stuck in a rut? I follow an account full of inspirational quotes that quietly remind me that maybe things aren’t so bad, not to mention the 120+ corgi accounts I follow (seriously, I might have a problem, somebody please just buy me one). Did I walk past a mirror that day and think, “Yikes, maybe I shouldn’t have had that second helping of Mom’s pasta and meatballs last night”? I follow celebrities and companies on Instagram that are massive supporters of body positivity, all shapes and all sizes. Did I have a less than awesome day, because we all know that definitely happens from time to time? It’s okay; I’ll just watch some comedians on YouTube for a quick laugh.
My point is, of course there are many times in which things on social media are hurtful, awful, and sadly, unavoidable. But in numerous situations, social media can be what we choose to make of it! That’s the beautiful thing behind it; it allows for self-expression, connection, and even support, we just have to approach it in the right way. The good news is I’m not the only one that feels this way! According to an article from Today.com, teens often times actually experience a self-esteem boost from posting their selfies online. In fact, it was a whopping 65% of teens that felt this way, and 40% felt that social media helps them, “…present [their] best face to the world.” According to psychologists, this phenomenon is referred to as self-efficacy, and the idea that we can be both the photographer and the subject of a picture, makes us feel more in control of our own world. But, as with all endeavors on social media, one must not get too caught up in what others are posting and in making comparisons, but instead, celebrate one’s own uniqueness.
Healthyplace.com shares a similar sentiment. The article states that there are several ways in which social media can in fact work to boost your self-esteem, and in doing so, perhaps even lower anxiety. In the feature, the author states that users should use social media for education, inspiration, connection, support, and even as a positive distraction! Above all, the key here, as with all things in life, is moderation. Yes, I bolded, underlined, AND italicized that crucial word because I am a huge believer in it. I have confidence that social media has a lot to offer, but I also trust that the everyday, real world does as well, and it is important to always be a part of it.
More and more celebrities are using social media in positive and passionate ways. According to an article on The Huffington Post, notable figures are operating digital platforms to get the word out about charities, organizations, and fundraisers they are passionate about, hoping to spark that same zest in others. For example, Sophia Bush has completely embraced the concept of switching from entirely self-promoted tweets to those that focus on supporting positive change through companies like Pencils of Promise, Global Green USA, and even the Global Poverty Project, to name a few. She sums it up quite well when she says, “There’s such an amazing opportunity in the way that we live and the choices that we make. We can always make a better choice; we can always make more positive change. I want people to not only feel confident and beautiful on the outside, but I want that all to come from the inside.” In other words, why not use digital platforms in a helpful, happy manner, and advocate the good things we care about, the joyful things that excite us?
In his Forbes article, “How Companies Can Build Confidence In Millennials,” Daniel Rounds notes that when it comes to our digital atmosphere, “We live in an increasingly complex world, one wherein the line between real value and pure hype gets thinner by the microsecond. We're judging people's lives by their social media pages. We're consuming news that is often impossible to trust blindly. And in the middle of it all, we have the millennial generation embodying this very confusion.” To be honest, he’s not wrong. But to Daniel Rounds, I say this: when possible try making things a little less complex, find some positive accounts to focus on, and concentrate more on your own life instead of the ones others are portraying online. It’s true, there will always be naysayers, and loving oneself and realizing self-worth are two incredibly difficult feats, and in trying to do so, sometimes people come across as vain. But, above all, I am sure we all have something good we can share, an inspiring story or even something that will inflate rather than deflate a person. After all, we all matter!
Cassie Passarella, Graduate Student
Master of Arts in Emerging Media
Loyola University Maryland