Social Media, Self-Esteem, and Why We Should Avoid Turning Into Online Narcissists

New research conducted by Wonseok (Eric) Jang – Assistant Professor in the Department of Advertising College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University suggests that our level of self-esteem dictates the way in which we present ourselves on social media sites such as Facebook.

The research was conducted with Facebook users recruited from Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk platform.

278 people were asked to post truthfully, or strategically about themselves, and then take part in a questionnaire. The research suggested that users with high self-esteem generally have little or no issue with presenting themselves truthfully on Facebook in comparison to those with low self-esteem.

A subsequent study suggests that the passionate desire for true competence in users with high self-esteem is the main reason for their truthful posting.

But Facebook likes, and attention does not mean that people generally approve of our constant
self-advertisement.

In a 2013 research conducted by the PEW Research Center, a survey measuring what Facebook users mostly dislike about the platform came out with interesting, yet hardly surprising results.

% of Facebook users who “strongly dislike”…

People sharing too much information about themselves 36%

Others posting things about you or pictures of you without permission 36%

Other people seeing posts or comments you didn’t mean for them to see 27%

Temptation or pressure to share too much info about yourself 24%

Pressure to post content that will be popular and get lots of comments/likes 12%

Pressure to comment on content posted by others in your network 12%

Seeing posts about social activities you were not included in 5%

On a similar note, both low and high self-esteemers’ mental health can suffer negative long term consequences due to the psychological effects social media can have on us.

Various studies thoroughly described by Jonathan Heidt – NYU School of Business, and Graig Lukianoff – President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in their book The Coddling of the American Mind present evidence showing the negative effects social media has on children born in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s (Gen Z), combined with parenting overprotection.

This includes an alarming rise in depression, self-harm, and suicide over the past 10 years.

Social psychologists Jenna Clark, Melanie Green, and Sara Algoe point out that “Social network sites benefit their users when they are used to make meaningful social connections and harm their users through pitfalls such as isolation and social comparison when they are not.”

While social comparison can be a healthy and beneficial exercise in pushing ourselves to achieve|
more in life (psychologist Leon Festinger called it the “social comparison theory” in the 1950s), it can often trigger feelings of envy, resentment, and harsh self-judgment poisoning the wells of our mental health.

In positive conclusion, Clinical Psychologist Jordan B. Peterson offers precious advice intended to help us with taking on the issue of social comparison in Rule 4 of his best-selling book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

Rule 4 states “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”

Peterson expands: “Could you compare your specific personal tomorrow with your specific personal yesterday? Could you use your own judgment, and ask yourself what that better tomorrow might be? Aim small. You don’t want to shoulder too much to begin with, given your limited talents, tendency to deceive, burden of resentment, and ability to shirk responsibility. Thus, you set the following goal: by the end of the day, I want things in my life to be a tiny bit better than they were this morning. Then you ask yourself, “What could I do, that I would do, that would accomplish that, and what small thing would I like as a reward?” Then you do what you have decided to do, even if you do it badly. Then you give yourself that damn reward, in triumph. Maybe you feel a bit stupid about it, but do it anyway. And you do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. And, with each day, your baseline of comparison gets a little higher, and that’s magic. That’s compound interest. Do that for three years, and your life will be entirely different. Now you’re aiming for something higher. Now you’re wishing on a star. Now the beam is disappearing from your eye, and you’re learning to see. And what you aim at determines what you see. That’s worth repeating. What you aim at determines what you see.”

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