Social media: Converting likes into self-esteem

Josette Corazza, Opinions Writer

We pull up Instagram while we’re waiting in line for Hillel, check Facebook notifications under our desks and talk about trending tweets with our friends. Social media is a huge part of our lives, but do we often consider how it is impacting our self-esteem?

I know that I feel disappointed when an Instagram post doesn’t do as well as I had hoped. We certainly wouldn’t mind how our posts performed if we were social networking within a void. But the constant comparison of our likes and shares to those of others’ posts is not good for our self-confidence.

According to The Huffington Post, social media has been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression, and narcissism. In a poll run by the website, 60 percent of active social media users reported that using social media has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way.

A study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, scanned young adults’ brains while they used social media. Researchers found that the same brain circuits activated by eating chocolate and winning money are activated when young adults see large numbers of “likes” on their photos in a social network.

In the study, researchers analyzed the participants’ brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). When participants saw that their own photos had garnered a large amount of likes, researches saw activity across a wide variety of regions in the brain. A region especially active was the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain’s reward circuitry, which is thought to be particularly sensitive during adolescence.

Researchers at the University of Toledo established that people have a lower state of self-esteem and marginally poorer relative self-evaluations after exposure to an upward comparison target (such as an account promoting health and fitness) than a downward comparison target. Thus, viewing positive-content social media profiles with lots of likes was associated with viewers having poorer self-esteem and relative self-evaluations.

Furthermore, a study by researchers at the University of Notre Dame exemplified that students who use social media with the intention of enhancing their self-image are at risk of lowering not only their self-esteem but also their overall satisfaction with life. The evidence of this relation is rooted in the sample data of the study’s research, in which analysis showed that self-esteem is strongly positively associated with satisfaction with life.

Gauging your “likes” and comparing yourself to others on social media won’t just lower your self-esteem, but will also be detrimental to your overall happiness. In times when your contentment is already at a slight risk–for example, Finals Week– you should consider taking a break from social media. You will likely feel your self-esteem rising, as you cut back on virtual comparison to others. While on your social media break, try giving some compliments in person to give peers a boost of “IRL” self-confidence.