IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a repost from my original blog, but I thought as of lately, this is a nice reminder as we may get wrapped up in the world of social media (No, it’s not me being unoriginal, it’s me trying to remind people about this important topic…okay I’m going to be quiet and enjoy 🙂 )
Raise your hand if you’ve ever used one of the following: Snapchat, Facebook, Yik Yak, YouTube, Twitter, or Tumblr.
If you raised your hand for that, can you raise your hand again if you check it at least once per day?
Once again, raise your hand one more time, and be honest– On any one of these platforms have you compared yourself either negatively or positively to someone else or felt like you should be doing more with your life?
I raised my hand to all three (and I have a feeling those who read this have done so too). Admit it- we’ve all used one form of social media or another, it’s part of our culture and as the years go by I’m sure it’s place in our culture will be cemented (if it hasn’t already). In the past decade, our lives have been changed with the addition of these platforms that it’s become a huge part of our daily lives and I don’t think we know it or we choose not to acknowledge it. To be quite honest, I’ll admit it feels weird for me if I did go a day without checking my Instagram or Facebook.
But what does the frequency of how much we use social media or the overall presence of social media in general have to do with our self worth and identity?
The answer- a lot more than what most people tend to think. Many psychological studies and articles like one found in Psychology Today come to the conclusion that “…Self Identity is obtained in two ways; through self awareness and the observation of others.”. The social media world is closely connected with this idea as much of the interaction we get from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter is- observation, seeing others do this or doing that.
Now, I’m one of those “terrible Millennials”, so I’m quite used to my extensive and useless knowledge about who follows who, who is an Instamodel, or what celebrity got one million tweets. While, I have been exposed to the majority of it, I did not necessarily grow up with it, so that begs the another question- What about the kids of Generation Z? I mean they are the children and teenagers who practically have grown up with this (their generation’s nickname is even called the “iGeneration”).
I’d argue that the social media that is present in their lives is a key player in shaping how they react to events, view themselves, and communicate with others. In fact NPR’s Morning Edition show hosted social science researcher Shankar Vedantam to specifically talk about science behind it and how it directly affects both kids and teenagers alike. Vedantam found that while kids, teenagers, and young adults don’t consider social media a huge part of their lives the cost of it can be detrimental as “…seeing popular pictures…produced greater activation in the reward centers of the brain”. (Vedantam, 2016).
This reward center in our brain is often fueled by our extended use of social media. This can lead to seeking validation by the number of likes, followers, or retweets we get and if we don’t get enough, we start to feel like we don’t measure up. Much of what ourselves and other users put on our pages are manipulated. While, that girl may look like she has everything she wants or that guy who seems like he’s the artsy, mysterious cool rocker, all of it in reality is just a filter- they are human, they make mistakes just like you and me. But we don’t know that- we only see what’s inside that frame, so this often can lead us with feelings of jealously or comparison and it becomes a nasty cycle of post, like, and compare.
Though I may have framed it in a way where I am telling you- “BE A HERMIT AND SWEAR OFF THE EVIL I CALL SOCIAL MEDIA BECAUSE IT COMPLETELY FRAGMENTS YOU!”, I acknowledge social media is a great way to connect with others you may have never had a chance to meet, learn valuable information, and share a plethora of ideas. But, regardless of how you feel towards it- it’s silly to not acknowledge the fact that it has a role shaping how we feel towards people, places, and even ourselves, either positively or negatively.
“But now you are saying the same thing!” No, I’m not. I said they are not mutually exclusive and like everything in the world it does have pros and cons. Just as with dieting, shopping, or drinking with your pals there’s always a healthy medium. Know when to put the phone down, and focus on other things. Show your kids or your teenage cousin there’s so much more to themselves then those twelve likes on that photo of a banana. Respect that those celebrities or personalities who have this as their living aren’t as perfect as what the filter or frame leads on.
I think once we acknowledge that we can teach others and ourselves that the urge to appease to others on social media does not matter in the end, it can help us reclaim our worth and identity. I think social media is great (I use WordPress for goodness sake because I love reading what everyone has to say!). But, it’s very important to realize that the follower count, or likes on some cool dude’s selfie should never define who we are. Yeah, we live in an increasingly technological world, but never let that define you – let YOU define YOU.
Disclaimer: This is my opinion and it’s not an attack on anyone, more of an observation, and it’s how I feel. I get some people may not agree with me and that’s okay, but I’m going to feel how I feel and you are going to feel how you feel. We don’t agree? Cool! That’s the nature of people 🙂
Sources (want to know more? Read these articles I mentioned! All credit goes to these smart guys!):