The dark side of social media

Photo Credit: Sara Kurfess

Photo Credit: Sara Kurfess

Since social media platforms have allowed us to share pieces of our lives and be more connected with each other than ever before, it seems to have become a lot harder for some to be satisfied with their realities.

These platforms can be very enjoyable to us and rightly so. We get to share ideas, find inspiration, be entertained, learn new things and meet people we would otherwise never get to meet.

Sadly, they also have a dark side. Because it’s so enjoyable, social media can easily start to consume us and before we know it, we find ourselves unable to put down Snapchat and let our “streaks” end.

Every popular social media platform seems to measure the popularity level or status of its users. All have a number of followers or likes which, if there’s a high number, seems to elevate a person’s popularity level or their online status. This in turn could make their self-esteem or ego rise, whereas if those numbers are low it may consume their every thought for hours, maybe even days on end.

Getting a large number of followers or likes is not a real indicator of your worth as a person.

I’ve heard lots of people idolize being “Instagram famous” and it’s made me (and many others) question how important things such as follows and likes are to our actual self-esteem? Do we value online popularity the same way or more than we value real-life interactions?

Magazines and advertising have long been criticized for upholding dangerously unrealistic standards of success and beauty, but at least it’s acknowledged that they are idealized. The models wearing size-zero clothes are just that: models. Even then, those models often have their photos heavily edited before they are published.

These days, however, the impossible standards are set much closer to home, not only by celebrities and models but by classmates and friends. With social media, people can select pieces of their lives to share and the resulting feeds are simply highlight reels, showing only the best and most enviable moments while hiding efforts, struggle and the ordinary aspects of day-to-day life.

Young people all over the world are then comparing their appearance and lives to people on social media and they tend to judge themselves based on online constructs. Whether financially, emotionally or physically, it’s become common to look at other people’s stories and feeds and think that they have things going for them while you don’t.

The fallout from these unrealistic standards becomes more dangerous as people grow up and face harder situations in life. Rather than focusing on positive things, many young people find themselves facing the pressure to look perfect to impress peers on and offline; post great photos with lots of likes on social media and own the latest brand-name fashion and cosmetics that the influencers have.

Over time, things that happen online can become so consuming that they seriously warp our ideas of self-image and self acceptance.

To help overcome this, it’s important to encourage limited or positive uses of social media to our friends and family.

Giving up social media altogether is probably too much to ask for most people, but finding inspiring landscapes, food and positive messages to fill your feeds might just help you remember there’s more to life than what you look like and your current situation.

Nobody’s life is perfect and no matter how much people portray a certain lifestyle on social media, things might not always be as good as they seem. If you can take time to appreciate what you have and what makes you unique in the real world, it will be easier to not fall victim to the dark side of social media.

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