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The Effects of Social Media Use on Self-Esteem and Depression

Autor:   •  November 7, 2018  •  Research Paper  •  4,049 Words (17 Pages)  •  9 Views

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The Effects of Social Media Use on Self-esteem and Depression

Vart Zeitlian

Lebanese American University


Abstract:

The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between social media use and the depression and self-esteem levels of social media users. According to past research, spending time on social networking sites increases depression and affects self-esteem negatively.

To test this effect, a group of 130 people aged between 16 to 30 (65 females, 65 males) were asked to participate in an online survey which was anonymous, and a psychologist was interviewed to give a detailed insight about the variables tackled. Taking into consideration the fact that everyone experiences social media in a different way, the results section did not come up with a definite conclusion.

Introduction:

Social media has rocketed to a point where it has become an essential part of people’s daily lives by capturing the attention of millions. Some people greet it with euphoria, whereas others fear its consequences (Nie & Erbring, 2002). The remaining just go with the flow, lest they will appear to be falling behind or not having fun. A lot of people like it because they can manipulate it. Social media affects its users depending on their use, and this is why it may sometimes be dangerous for people’s self-esteem and may have a snowball effect on depression.

Literature Review:

Social media is the fastest growing tool of communication and like everything else, it has its advantages and disadvantages. Freitas (2017) declared that through social media people can spread the gospel, can spread love and share their dreams and hopes. Sometimes social media can even look like a smoke screen, hiding the reality by just showing the enviable moments. A social media user tries to appear a happy and a do-no-wrong person on any social platform that is attached to his/her real name and he/she tries to portray a good life instead of actually leading one. Sometimes people go to places and take photographs just for the sake of people’s reactions, which is pathetic. Freitas (2017) continues by saying that before the boom of social media, the reaction of people regarding a specific activity was the byproduct of the activity, but now the whole idea has been changed; the same reaction of people is becoming the sole reason of doing the activity in the first place. Moreover, the greatest irony is that people like to access all the information that is around them, but also like to control their own personal information, lest they offer bad impressions about themselves and become the topic of other people’s malicious rumors. People post things that other users are going to respond well to and try to avoid posts that could haunt them for the rest of their lives. Moreover, Tazghini & Siedlecki (2013) note that some people “un-tag” themselves from certain photos in order to preserve their “virtual” image (as cited in Raymer, 2015), or involve themselves in a social media cleanup by deleting embarrassing posts and pictures, fearing that others would use that against them. This is why Gershon (2011) explains that people’s cyber-lives are much more interesting than their real daily-lives. When you’re young and innocent, you post anything that comes into your mind without having a second thought, but as you grow older you start to worry about your “image” as if you were a celebrity; you learn what is appropriate to post and what is not, fearing that people would pounce if they saw something they don’t like (Freitas, 2017).

One of the most interesting things to look at is the increasing number of people using social networking sites. What’s more interesting than that is the number of people caught up in “comparison traps”. According to Freitas (2017), some people believe that social media builds relationships while others think that it ruins them and gives a rise to drama. Gershon (2011) notes that it is better when couples in a romantic relationship do not use Facebook because Facebook can serve as an incentive to monitor people around you, especially your lovers’ daily lives, which can make you more anxious and jealous (whereas this idea didn’t concern people who didn’t want monogamy). Moreover, people find it difficult to decode data that is posted on Facebook because they think that it’s either too much or something’s missing. Wilson, Gosling & Graham (2012) report that people using Facebook upload 4 billion pieces of content daily (as cited in Raymer, 2015). Barker (2009) mentions that extroverts use social media for social interaction, while introverts use it for social compensation (as cited in Raymer, 2015). Ayas & Horzum (2010) elaborate this idea by saying that people who are shy and have difficulties in face-to-face communications prefer to share their thoughts and feelings online; so in other words, they engage in social compensation. It is important to point out that the number of someone’s Facebook friends doesn’t determine the quality of his/her friendship since some people “pile” Facebook friends just for the sake of having more “virtual” friends and increase their perception of popularity. This can sometimes mean that being a friend with someone on Facebook is a virtually meaningless relationship since there would have been no interaction between them had the internet not existed (Gershon, 2011). Moreover, according to Lee, Moore, Park & Park (2012), sometimes more friends can create more problems because you would therefore be exposed to a larger audience (as cited in Raymer, 2015).

The usage of social media can affect one’s psychological standing and result in loneliness, depression, and lower self-esteem. This is why there’s a considerable uncertainty and debate over how to best use them. Remaining rational while scrolling through a bunch of “happy” posts in your lonely hours is not that easy; this would eventually get to a person after a time (Freitas, 2017). The users of social media should be aware of their usage and try not to compare their “behind-the-scenes” with other people’s highlight reel that has been edited to the very glorious detail. People have to know that the grass is not always greener on the other side. They should trust people and not pictures. They should not give power to social media to affect their self-esteem or worse, increase their depression levels. Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay. People usually get scrutinized more easily if they use social media regularly; this is why we should try our best to manage our feelings and not let social media govern us instead. It is human nature to compare ourselves to others. The very same comparison can sometimes inspire us but more often it depresses us. Some students, for example, believe that Facebook transforms them into another person where jealousy rules and that eventually leads them to feel depressed (Gershon, 2011). By giving an impression that everyone is having fun except you, social media is becoming one of the greatest reasons for depression. Others feel depressed by seeing the gap between their idealized online personas and who they really are. According to Freitas (2017), being one way in private and acting another way in public is very tiring. A person, for example, can be on antidepressants but her posts can tell a whole another story by showing only her “happy phases”. Moreover, in order to say something online, social media users are getting anxious by wondering if their viewers are going to “like” it or not, if it is going to sound offensive, show a positive vibe or worry anyone (Freitas, 2017). Furthermore, by putting a spotlight on the importance of being “liked”, people are getting more nervous. Another thing that is also considered stressful and frustrating is that people now are always “on call” just like doctors are. People expect that others should be available 24/7, so if someone doesn’t respond immediately, he/she has to explain it later. Freitas (2017) notes that cyberbullying too, can lead people to depression because people are more loose with their tongues on social media and have more freedom in doing “sinful things” by being anonymous and faking their profiles. Moreover, Raymer (2015) implies that low self-esteem is related to more time spent on social media, and since spending time online decreases face-to-face communications, the use of social media is leading people to depression.  In that case, loss of contact with one’s social environment is positively correlated with the time spent using the internet, which can be noticeable even by just using 2hours of internet per week (Nie & Erbring, 2002). Furthermore, users that message their friends on Facebook usually report a lower feeling of loneliness than those that only stalk other people’s profiles (Raymer, 2015). Gonzales & Hancock (2011) comment that the data posted on one’s profile makes people aware of their own shortcomings, which leads to low self-esteem levels, but if that same data is “manicured” and the information posted is best-selected, self-esteem levels can increase. They continue by reporting that “previous work examining self-esteem suggests that consistency between the actual and the ideal self is an important factor in understanding how information can affect self-esteem” (p.82). Moreover, constant self-evaluation and competition with other users can lower self-esteem (Raymer, 2015).  Another thing to take into consideration is that people who view their own profiles report higher self-esteem levels than people who only stalk other people’s profiles. The information that people post online is always over-interpreted, which leads to exaggerations and stereotypes (Gonzales & Hancock, 2011). People form opinions based on social media platforms and therefore fit people into “boxes” by hanging nicknames on each other such as “the jersey girl”, “the party animal”, and so on… which are very general; people can’t really fit a person in a checkbox kind of form (Freitas, 2017). Another thing related to social media is the “selfie” trend which has gotten “out of control”. I believe that there will come a time that the word “millennial” will be replaced by the phrase “selfie generation”. Since selfies are all about having the best looks and faces, it is kind of related to the “contest” of appearing happy and to the creation of unrealistic expectations on what beauty is supposed to be, which is making people feel insecure about themselves (Freitas, 2017). We see everyone’s nice photos but not the millions of selfies that it took to finally get to that one. But there are other drawbacks in having photographs too (Gershon, 2011). “Pics or it didn’t happen”, people say. But photographs offer just the tip of the iceberg. You can never be sure about what was happening at that exact time by simply looking at a photograph. Furthermore, by trying to find the perfect angle, selfies are carrying people away from reality, belittling the intimacy of the moment, and replacing the real experiences.

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