Social media and self-esteem have a complicated relationship. It’s thrilling to share great moments with the world, until looking at others’ timeline makes us second-guess those great moments. Even the super-confident have been known to question themselves after scrolling through perfectly curated snippets of others’ lives. But deleting all your social media accounts and resolving to live like it’s 1999 isn’t really the answer; if your livelihood depends upon it, it’s not even in your best interest.
How many people gave up television after seeing one too many picture-perfect lives? Of course, social media is different from traditional media for obvious reasons. With social media, we actually know many of the people we follow, our personal and public lives are intertwined, and we’re able to construct a very public image like no other generation before ours. This pseudo-celebrity status comes with celebrity-like problems.
As our private life fades and our public life expands, we may feel pressure to keep up appearances. And if our self-esteem isn’t grounded in something lasting, we can be consumed with how our life appears to others, rather than how it feels. There is nothing wrong with wanting to share the best parts of our lives as long as we understand that doing so can have its drawbacks.
With social media placing us all at risk of being overly consumed with what our lives looks like, an awareness of these drawbacks may help us figure out how to use social media purposefully, and in ways that enhance rather than tear down our self-esteem. It’s manipulation at its finest. Here are a few tips:
- Get off social media.
Say what? Isn’t this article about how to use social media? Yes! But there is clarity in the craziness. Every now and then, we need breaks to re-group and achieve balance. We may take breaks from eating certain foods, watching certain shows, or even talking to certain people. But it doesn’t mean we will never do these things again—it just means we need to step back and gain a healthier perspective. The same can be said of social media. It’s important to take a break and focus on other interests so you can see how social media really impacts your life, especially if you use it compulsively.
If your self-esteem relies heavily on likes and comments, it’s probably fragile and needs strengthening, much like weak muscles need a good workout. Taking a break will allow you the opportunity to figure out other ways to feel validated and worthy. You may even have to delete your social media apps to make it harder to get to. Do whatever it takes to get centered so you no longer feel at the whim and mercy of your followers’ ever-changing mood and interests.
The idea of “missing in action” can provoke some anxiety, particularly if you feel pressure to perform or to cater to your audience. But it’s up to you to decide what is more important: your self-esteem and overall mental health or your followers’ desire for more content? So what if you lose some followers? You’ll gain a renewed perspective on yourself, and the followers you have left will get a much better version of you.
- Figure out how you want to use it.
How have you been using social media? Is it a way to share special moments with close friends and family, a tool to brand yourself and business, or a way to share inspiration? Even with the best intentions for using social media, we may find ourselves scrolling through our timeline, caught up in other people’s lives. And not just any lives, but people’s most ideal representations of themselves.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing until we start to base our real self-esteem on someone’s Photoshopped image. The goal is to enhance our self-esteem—and we certainly won’t do it fixated on someone else’s online image.
- Keep some things private.
Taking a cue from some of the great celebrities of the 20th century, we too can learn how to separate our public and private selves in way that protects our self-esteem with a little strategy, focus on what areas of your life you want to keep private, and what areas you want to expose to the public. If you decide to post pictures of your booming business and family vacations to show a more relaxed side of you, you may choose to leave out the more intimate family time, either because you want to keep it between you and your family, and/or perhaps you feel it is not needed given your social media goals.
These types of decisions reduce the chance that you will overexpose yourself in a way that makes you feel vulnerable and perhaps more sensitive to others’ opinions. It also reinforces the idea that your self-esteem or self-worth is not dependent upon social media.
- Be que sera, sera about it.
How does social media compare in importance to other areas of your life? Is it just a tool to enhance your life, or is it more like the center of your world? Setting boundaries can make all the difference between your using social media, and social media using you. One way to break social media’s hold is to act as if it’s just a tool for whatever you’re trying to accomplish, even if you don’t feel this way yet. And tools always play second string to the main attraction, which in this case, would be your life. What’s the worst that could happen if you’re not on it for an hour? Some tension, some distress? It’s just anxiety, and it will pass.
If you focus on living life rather than posting it, your days will be much more enjoyable. You can post anytime, but you can’t get your days back. And this perspective can make a huge difference in how you feel about yourself when using social media.
- Keep creating visual content
Because social media is so visual, it’s an opportunity to create inspiring visual content that can enhance a sense of well-being and self-esteem. The creative process can be challenging, as you have to move past your inner critic to self-acceptance. Inspiration doesn’t always hit you over the head. Being open to finding inspiration anywhere despite a difficult day or moment takes work. But the process of creating images that inspire you and others is in itself therapeutic. And the more you seek inspiration and express what visually appeals to you online, the more your social media pages will feel like a reflection of your best self, a self-esteem booster for sure.
- Get back in the game—your way.
When you think you’re ready, decide on what you truly want to represent. And if it’s to help and support nonprofits doing good work that you believe in, kudos!
Anyone can write a check or zap a donation to a worthy cause. But you can do more. You can help publicize fundraising efforts, like special events that benefit the charities of your choice. You can spread the word about upcoming events. And, most of all, you can attend (and donate) when your favorite non-profits hold fundraisers, dinners or demonstrations. If you had been missing the feeling of being on a team and helping your community with like-minded people, pledge yourself to fix that by making time for doing good works in person as well as online. Teaming up with people you haven’t met yet can result in more than just accomplishing mundane but vital tasks together. It’s the perfect way to meet like-minded people who could easily become friends as well as colleagues.