Social Media And Self Esteem

The purpose of this paper is to further explore the connection between women’s lower self-esteem and social media. Studies show that from 2005-2018 there was a 69% increase in social media usage by women in the United States, from 4% of women using social media in 2005 to 73% of women in 2018 (Pew Research Center, 2018). The increased use of social media among women has been shown to lead to lower self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and eating disorders. This was in relation to the idealization of pictures seen on social media outlets.

The focus on physical appearance could create a negative environment for people’s mental health and wellbeing due to the great importance that is assigned to women’s bodies in American culture.

Self-esteem is how a person views themselves in relation to their self worth and how much they like/approve of themselves. (general definition). The objectification theory proposes that women repeated experiences of being seen as an object and scrutinized could eventually lead to women internalizing the views of others on their own bodies.

This objectification can be done through both interpersonal interactions and through media representation. When women do internalize the third-person’s view as their own it turns into self-objectification. This then leads women to persistently monitor their physical appearance in order to match the ideals of this third-person’s view.  Social media sites takes on the role of this third-person as the platform becomes a place for social comparison. As people browse through different profiles they compare themselves to the photos they see.

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People, in general, have a need to compare themselves to others in order to do many things like meet needs, make decisions and control their emotions. There are two ways people show this comparison and that is through either upward or downward comparisons. Upward comparison is when an individual compares themselves to someone superior to themselves and downward comparison is when they compare themselves to someone who they consider inferior. Both these comparisons can be either beneficial or negative. It is shown that upward comparison more often causes people to feel incompetent and develop a poor self-view. Research has shown that people who make social comparisons on social media tend to report dissatisfaction, lower well-being, and overall view themselves farther away from their ideal selves.

This can be seen in social media as we more often use upward comparison as we browse through the images.  A study was done by Vogel, Rose, Roberts, and Eckles showed that viewing social media profiles with attractive/ideal content/features, more frequently, was associated with poorer self-esteem because of upwards social comparison. Since it’s possible that some people use social media to fulfill a sense of belongingness this upward social comparison could lead to lower self-esteem because we aren’t in agreement with what we view and this overexposure could have increasing detrimental impacts on people’s well-being. The sociometer theory proposes that we obtain our self-worth primarily through the feedback we receive from others and this could be seen as comments or likes on social media.

Women receive greater feedback on their physical appearance on social media platforms which in turn greater influences their body image. Social media isn’t like face-to-face interaction but rather a construction of the person’s best qualities. People selectively pick and choose what they want others to see.  In a study done by Kleemans, Daalmans, Carbaat & Anshutz, on manipulated Instagram pictures and their negative effect on female teenagers showed that exposure to manipulated Instagram photos leads to lower body dissatisfaction in comparison to pictures that weren’t altered. This is in relation to lower self-esteem because these altered pictures show unrealistic body standards.  As women experience this dissatisfaction with their body it can lead to feelings of depression and eating disorders.

On Instagram, there is great exposure to images of thin and “fit” inspiration and instead of encouraging a healthy lifestyle has been shown to decrease the psychological health of frequent viewers. In another study done by Sherlock & Wagstaff, showed that excessive Instagram use correlated with numerous psychosocial well-being outcomes such as depressive symptoms, anxiety, low self-esteem, and body image disturbances. Overall, we see that due to the ability to fabricate one’s ideal self on social media there poses a problem with the credibility the users give them. Creating this negative environment for women to compare themselves to.  To conclude, we see that through self-objectification of the women using social media we see the detrimental outcomes of upward comparisons.

Social media is found to be associated with body dissatisfaction when the media outlet is used for physical comparisons. Social media outlets show to exert more pressure on women to look attractive and this results in greater influence in body image. To conform women take on different views of themselves which alters their personal view and affects their self esteem. Physical dissatisfaction could possibly lead to problems such as eating disorders, to meet thinness/fitness standards, and depression when they are unable to meet with their comparison. Given that social media is fairly new we have to continue to further study the possibilities of more outcomes and the role of people’s lives outside of social media. But, through this research we have found that for some women it impacts their mental health and physical well-being quite severely.

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Social Media And Self Esteem. (2021, Dec 15). Retrieved from

Social Media And Self Esteem
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