Many of us have embraced the rise of social media platforms and this has provided the opportunity to be more connected than ever before. Over 100 million photos are shared on Instagram every day, but given how easy it is to edit photos, sometimes we can feel under pressure to create the best impression of our lives online.
Social media may give the impression that some people are flawless and living their best life all the time, but remember you are only seeing the highlights rather than the full picture. Real life isn’t always perfect.
Don’t be fooled by the filter. Stay true to yourself online.
Social media allows us to stay engaged with people and issues that matter to us, however, it can also negatively impact our self-esteem, sometimes without us even realising it. It’s important to be aware of the benefits and risks to keep your online world positive.
- Choosing what you want to share about your life.
- Staying in touch with old friends and making new friends.
- Feeling a sense of belonging by connecting with like-minded communities and individuals.
- Finding helpful support and advice.
- Supporting and influencing causes you believe in.
- Keeping up-to-date with the latest world events and news.
- Feeling lonely, isolated or excluded.
- Feeling pressure to be popular and accepted.
- Falling into the trap of comparing our lives to others.
- Struggling to get the right balance between online and offline activities.
- Leaving us open to negative or hurtful comments.
- Creating a distorted perception of reality.
Social media has allowed for the curated presentation of a persons’ digital identity which has given the rise and popularity of influencers. In addition to our friends and celebrities, we now follow influencers too. Influencers gain a following because we are interested in their content. Influencers can be entertaining, but they can also be subject experts and provide us with advice and guidance. They often present extravagant lifestyles online where they travel around the world living a life of luxury.
Some influencers use their platform to speak out and highlight important social issues and some influencers give tips about all manner of things from exercise to beauty. They can present aspirational lifestyles or images. It is really important to remember that this is intentionally curated content. It is easy to compare your life with the carefully constructed images we see online and this may lead us to feel pressured to live up to certain standards. It may even begin to impact on our self-confidence or self-esteem. It’s important to think critically about the content you are viewing and then ask yourself why the content has been created. What’s behind the content? Is this a promotion or an advertisement? Have the images been edited or constructed in a certain way? How realistic are the images? How does it make me feel? What is this content trying to influence?
Social media can provide valuable opportunities to stay connected and discover areas of interest that can improve our physical and mental well-being.
It’s natural to want to share the best parts of your life online with family and friends. However, sometimes you can find yourself viewing content that makes you feel inadequate, annoyed, worried or stressed. This can build up and start having a negative impact on your physical and mental wellbeing.
Worrying about your appearance, FOMO (fear of missing out) and social isolation are feelings that many children and young people have experienced.
“Nearly half (47%) of 8 to 17-year-olds are desperate to ‘fit in’ with their peers online, while 61% agree that the internet puts pressure on young people to come across as ‘perfect’.” (Free to be me report by UKSIC for Safer Internet Day 2020)
The unrealistic standards of social media culture can lead to incredible stress. The pressure to impress and to appear “perfect” online can often feel intense and leave them creating an identity that is far from reality.
If you are regularly feeling overwhelmed, anxious or struggling to cope, remember that help is available. Visit our Support services page for information on how to report issues or access free, confidential advice and support.
In this expert article, Stephanie Hoffman, Head of Social Action at ProMo-Cymru discusses the impact of social media on self-esteem. She highlights a number of calls by young people to the Meic helpline and how they were resolved.
Top tips for keeping your social media experience positive
Here are a few simple tips to help you keep your social media experience positive.
It can be tempting to create a misleading impression of your life online, because of your perceptions of others’ lives. However, it is more important to be accepted for your true self rather than an idealised version. Create a social media presence that is aligned with your own identity and values.
Keep in mind that you're not always seeing the full picture when viewing other people’s social media feeds and recognise that nobody’s life is perfect. Often people use filtering and editing tools to enhance their photos. Your value as a person is not reflected in the number of ‘likes’ your posts get or the number of followers.
Think about who you follow. Do they share your interests and values? Hide or unfollow feeds and users or content that makes you feel negative about yourself. Most social media apps have options to report or block unwanted content.
Find the balance
Do you ever start scrolling without even realising it? It is easy to become absorbed by social media and this can have a negative impact on your well-being. Being mindful about your habits can help you recognise when you need to take a break so that you can use social media with purpose.
Think before you post, does this make me feel good about myself? Could it be easily misconstrued? Would you express the same opinion offline? Thinking of yourself and others will ensure a positive experience and help you avoid unnecessary drama.
Download a poster of these tips below.
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Classroom resources around the subject of social media
A series of resources to start a conversation with your family about using social media.
This guide outlines the ways social media can affect a child or young person’s attitudes to body image and self-image.
This guide discusses how you can use social media in a positive way to keep yourself, your learners and your professional reputation safe.