Social media can lower self-esteem

Does social media effect our kids’ self esteem?

Everyday after school, Sarah checks her Instagram account. She likes to see what her friends are doing, but often feels worse after reading their status updates. What they post always looks so much better than whatever she is doing. She sees friends at the beach, drinking Starbucks and having a GREAT time. She also notices how pretty, photogenic and happy they appear. By the time she sets her phone down, she feels terrible. She believes her life is not nearly as exciting. She is not as pretty or popular or amazing. Sarah is suffering from a classic case of Social Media Hangover.

This phenomenon is extremely common for both kids and grown-ups. We often compare our lives to what we see posted on social media and most of us feel worse after perusing our friends’ accounts. The reality is that Social Media profiles are an illusion. They are carefully crafted. People don’t typically post terrible pictures of themselves. They don’t create updates of the boring, mundane tasks of their day. Instead, most people create an enviable social media image.

Social media can be a lot of fun. It helps up stay in touch with people we wouldn’t otherwise. However, often times our kids feel badly about themselves when they compare their real lives to their friends social media profiles.

One teen girl told me, “I usually take 200+ selfies before choosing one to post. I always edit it too so I look my best.” Another teen admitted that she purposely posts pictures showing how much fun she’s having, and who she’s with, so people will think she’s really popular.

It is really important to talk to our kids about the fantasy aspect of social media. Just as models are highly edited and airbrushed, most of us create Social Media accounts that show an ideal life that doesn’t truly reflect reality.

I encourage you to talk to your child about the Social Media Hangover phenomenon. You can start the conversation with the following questions:

  • Do you think Social Media is real?
  • Why do people edit photos of themselves before posting?
  • Do you ever feel badly when you compare yourself to your friends’ profiles?
  • Would you say you feel better or worse after being on Social Media?
  • Do you think someone is more popular than you if they have more followers on Instagram?
  • Have you ever seen a profile of someone you know well that doesn’t seem like an accurate reflection of his or her life?

Because our digital footprints are permanent, I always encourage kids to post updates that show themselves in a positive light. However, it’s really important for kids to understand that social media is not real. It can be damaging to kids’ self-esteems when they compare themselves to others’ “exciting and perfect lives.”

One fun exercise is for kids to look over their own profile. Usually they see how great their Social Media lives look too and it can help them to remember not to take other profiles too seriously.