Art by Christopher Chen
Ever since social media came into existence, there has been an ongoing conversation questioning the genuine nature of it. This conversation was recently highlighted when Essena O’Neill, who had about half a million followers on Instagram, then spoke out against and deleted her social media accounts in November 2015, because she said she believes social media is fake. However, it seems that she projected her own unhealthy relationship with social media onto others, and thus, generalized that social media is bad for all. Social media is what the individual makes of it and shouldn’t be seen as something altogether negative.
She blamed social media for contributing to her feelings of low self-worth, and in turn blamed it for causing her to be fake, by posting perfectly edited and contrived pictures, to gain social approval.
Those who base their self-worth on sources like validation from others, report more stress and anger, along with academic, social and health problems, according to a 2002 study on self-esteem by the University of Michigan, “The Costs of Seeking Self-Esteem.”
So it’s no wonder that she was angry and upset. But instead of blaming social media for her problems of self-worth, she should have simply stopped seeking validation via social media. She had no one to blame but herself.
One popular Instagrammer, Gabby Epstein, reiterated some of these thoughts in a Tumblr post titled “My Views on Social Media” on Nov. 4, 2015. She talked about how just because most of us only post the highlights of our lives on social media, doesn’t mean we’re fake in doing so.
“Everyone, myself included, choose[s] the highlight reel of their life to present on social media,” Epstein said. “However, that doesn’t mean I have ever pretended to be someone that I am not on Instagram … self-worth and happiness will never, and can never, be based on other people’s opinions or expectations of you — especially not the number of followers you have on Instagram … ”
With social media playing such a huge part in our culture today, obviously Pepperdine students are a part of it, which is clear from the countless sunsets, SunLife and beach pictures seen posted on social media.
But are we all seeking validation in others by being fake and trying to make ourselves look good on social media?
Just posting the highlights of your life and leaving out the bad doesn’t mean you’re necessarily being fake and seeking approval. It seems pretty obvious that most people don’t like to share negative aspects of their lives simply because they want to be viewed positively and feel good about their posts.
This desire can be connected to psychologist Carl Rogers’ ideas of self-actualization and the fully functioning person. Rogers believed every human has an instinct to fulfill themselves, and attain what they consider to be their full potential, which raises their self-worth. He called this reaching full potential self-actualization, and he believed it would be attained when our ideal self and self-image match. Those who reach this state are confident and hold positive feelings about themselves.
Therefore, we want to portray ourselves in an ideal way in order to reach self-actualization. That’s why we strictly control how we portray ourselves on social media. We want what we share on social media to match our ideal versions of ourselves, because this instills self-confidence in us.
And social media does boost confidence for many. One in five teens reported social media makes them feel more confident, as compared to 4 percent who said it makes them feel less so, according to a 2012 study by Common Sense Media called “Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives.”
Similarly, 40 percent of adults and 56 percent of teenagers said that seeing good photos of themselves on social media boosts their confidence, according to a 2014 survey conducted by Today and AOL, titled “Ideal to Real Body Image Survey,”
As with anything in life, social media platforms are what we make of them. Social media is a tool that we can choose how to use, resulting in good outcomes or bad.
We can choose to let it overtake us, and become wrapped up in striving for more likes and followers. Or, we can be authentic, sharing our enjoyed memories and expressing ourselves through unique outlets.
Social media isn’t something to be viewed as negative. There are so many positives of social media, from connecting with others, to spreading important information quickly, to having a creative outlet. Social media can be great if you hold yourself accountable for how you use it. You have the choice to make the best of it.
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