We use it everyday to check what our friends are up to, what other people are wearing and what the latest trend is. It’s become so imbued in our daily lives that we don’t see how much it’s affecting us and those around us.
Measuring our worth and popularity by the number of likes or friends we have is not an uncommon approach by people all over the world – or at least those connected to online world. We all need those little compliments from others to make us feel better about ourselves and with the feedback loop that social media encompasses, it has inevitably allowed for the “You look gorgeous!” and “Wow! I’m so jealous of you” comments to prop up more than it actually does in real life.
According to a study from the University of Michigan, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter appeal most to those who need an ego boost. Or those not getting those compliments in real life.
The study, which was published online in Computers in Human Behavior, highlighted how social media use is becoming less about connecting with others and more about vanity and self-promotion.
I guess it is nice to know that others “like” you too even though they may be lying. After all, they are hiding behind a screen as well.
So why do we actually post our selfies and constantly update our profile? Is it really to colour our daily feed and timelines with beautiful memories that we can keep for life? Or is it to get that ego boost when others like our photo?
Well, I think it’s the latter.
How good can I actually feel?
While it is still extremely unfair to say that people use social media solely because of vanity and boosting one’s ego, especially with the presence of ghost helpers that are pop up ever so often when a knight in shining armor is needed, social media has affected our lives more than we care to admit.
Pew Research Center recently found out that 65% of social media using teens have actually encountered an experience online that made them feel good about themselves. Interacting with others and getting a good conversation in once in awhile was actually shown to have made teenagers feel better about themselves.
But 65%, that’s a big number right? But what about the rest? How good can we actually feel when we scroll through our various timelines, hop from one Instagram profile to the other and maneuver our way through the different sites?
Apparently, not so good. And hey, no surprise there. Seeing others getting better opportunities than ourselves or living a better life than we are at the moment can make you feel really lousy about yourself.
A generation of young adults desperately forming a persona that reflects well on themselves is in the works. With 55% of online teens saying they have decided not to post content that might reflect poorly on them, teens and even adults are being more careful as to what they post online, making sure it portrays only their best selves.
If that were the case, we would just be seeing the best achievements of an individual and the highs but neglecting the failures and difficulties a person actually faces seeing how most of us actually omit that out of our social media profiles. Not all of us would gladly admit that they scored an F on their final exam on Facebook or lost their jobs. Statistically, only 36% of us would.
While putting your best self forward is commendable, it also warps your social reality – that everyone else is doing great and looking amazing, and your less than perfect life will always pale in comparison.
Prison or a window?
While social networking sites like Facebook invites its users to share their everyday moments and the “What’s Happenings” of our day, it also sparks some feeling of jealousy, misery and loneliness.
Arguably, social media can seem like a window to the online realm and the happenings of the world that was once unfamiliar. But what we are facing now also seems like people hiding behind their 4.7 inch screens, waiting for updates and posting updates about themselves to make it seem like they’re are more interesting. The computer is our new ball-and-chain, with social media the enabler.
According to researchers from two German universities, one in three of its participants felt worse after visiting the site, especially upon viewing vacation photos.
Frequent Facebook users who spent time on the site without posting their own content were also more likely to feel dissatisfied.
As researcher Hanna Krasnova from the Institute of Information Systems at Berlin’s Humboldt University told Reuters: “We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry,”
Unsurprisingly, the most common cause of Facebook frustration came from users comparing themselves socially to their peers.
The second most common source of dissatisfaction was the lack of attention an individual experiences from having fewer comments, likes and general feedback when they compare themselves to their friends.
This is the reality. Other people’s profiles are carefully stitched together to portray the perfect persona but we fall for it and we do it too.
Internet psychologist Graham Jones, a member of the British Psychological Society also mentions how the growing concern people have on the negative effects of social media use are not unreal as they are connected with results that new research and studies that have found.
As he spoke to BBC: “It confirms what some other studies have found – there is a growing depth of research that suggests Facebook has negative consequences.”
Learning the online rules
But before we jump the gun and say that social media is wreaking havoc in our lives, there are still parameters and boundaries to be drawn.
Not everybody and anybody are going to experience the negative effects of Facebook. Sometimes, it really is nice to see someone doing better than you – maybe, they deserved it and worked hard for it.
Jones also added there was plenty of research showing that Facebook actually does have some positive effects on its users. Interacting with like-minded individuals and forming a better version of your own identity can be better achieved through such social networking sites.
Obviously, using Facebook when you’re feeling terrible will make you feel worse when you see others doing better and using it when you are at the peak of your life can make you feel better seeing how you are way ahead of your peers. But this love-hate relationship with social media isn’t going away with our growing desire to stay connected. We would just have to learn to take the good that it can offer instead of digesting only the bad.
But God knows, the human touch is always more comforting than receiving a virtual poke.