Does heavy social media use affect one’s self-esteem and mental well-being?
Today, social media is the highest checked applications on our phones and computers. It has become a critical part in our everyday routines, sometimes even checked multiple times per day and hour. By the click of a button we are able to communication with people all over the world by posting on timelines, stories and blogs. With applications such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter we can communicate via photos and video with no longer needing face to face contact. By checking these applications multiple times a day we are putting pressure on ourselves to post more, get more likes, friends and followers. These pressures come from all social media platforms and add up significantly over time by making the users feel as though they need to look and act a certain way in order to fit in with social media standards. Does heavy social media use affect one’s self-esteem and mental well-being? This paper seeks to provide an overview of research on how self-esteem and mental well-being are negatively affected by social media.
Keywords: social media, mental well-being and self-esteem
Negative Effects of Social Media
Social media has forever changed the way humans interact. We no longer have to meet face to face, send emails or wait until we get home make phone calls to keep in contact with distant relatives or friends who live out of town. Now people can post on their stories, timelines, go live or even quickly snapchat their friends off their smartphones. The evolution of social media has drastically changed the easiness of everyday life.
By opening the applications on our phones for Facebook or Instagram all we need to do is click on a button in order to share a picture of our most recently selfie or create a post about current thoughts for people to like and comment on. Social media users feel a need or desire to post often to keep people up to date with their life and to constantly check what other people are doing so that they know how to fit in. Even though social media has many positives and benefits, there are many negatives that come along with it.
The pressure is higher than ever to fit in with societal norms. New ideas of beautiful, new styles and trendy ascetics appear every day which produces added stress for people to keep up with the trends. The idea that we need to look a certain way, be a certain size, wear specific styles and constantly be up to date on the newest trends causes an obsession by social media users. We no longer post on social media the things that we like and enjoy but instead we are posting to fulfill a certain standard and show that we do things that are considered in style/cool/popular.
Social media changed our lives by promoting that its users follow a trend instead of forming their own path. Self-esteem and mental well-being are negatively affected by social media. I critically analyzed four research papers and found links between social media use and negative self-esteem. For this papers literature review, I will use the topic/categorical structure to cover my four sources. I believe that social media use contributes to lower self-esteem found in women and men in today’s culture. All of the four research papers I chose also agree that people’s tendencies on social media sites do indeed affect levels of their self-esteem.
Since the launch of Facebook in 2004, social media has taken over the lives of thousands of people from all around the world. Social media allows us to interact with people in different ways and perceive ourselves and other in new ways. Whether we like to believe it or not, social media does have negative effects on our self-esteem and mental well-being. According to Ahn Phung the definition of self-esteem can be described as a personal judgment of the worthiness that is expressed in the attitudes the individual holds towards himself, or put it more simply, self-esteem is the attitude that people have toward their own values (Phung p. 2).
Many scholars have done studies on how/if social media does affect mental well-being. The four sources I chose did preform studies that ended up proving that social media does affect self-esteem and mental well-being. Each of these studies came up with a research question, tested their hypothesis and came to a conclusion. While all of their studies and research questions varied a little, the conclusion ended up proving the same point. In an article by Angie Zuo, she sought to investigate the relation between Facebook use, social comparison, and mental health outcomes.
This is component one of my categorical/topic structure. Her hypothesis stated: “(H1) Individuals who spent more time using Facebook would make more social comparisons (both upward and downward) than individuals who did not spend as much time using Facebook and (H2) individuals who made more social comparisons would have lower self-esteem and more negative mental health outcomes” (Zuo, 2014). To test her hypothesis, she created a measure that asked the participants to report the ways that they compared themselves to other people.
After her studies was conducted and her results were completed for both hypothesis’, she found that for (H1) “the results showed that the number of minutes spent using social networking sites per day was significantly correlated with comparisons about appearance. This indicates that the more time an individual spends on social networking sites per day, the more likely they are to make comparisons about appearances, which supports our hypothesis” (Zuo, 2014).
She also found that for (H2) “Overall, we found that higher levels of social comparison were indeed associated with lower self-esteem and more symptoms of depression, anxiety, hostility, paranoia, and sensitivity. Our hypotheses were supported” (Zuo, 2014). Angie Zuo, from the University of Michigan research found direct links between self-esteem, mental well-being and social media use. As people have more exposure to social media, in this case Facebook, there levels of self-esteem dropped as they made social comparisons which made their mental health more negative as well. She found that there were positive correlations with lower self-esteem and negative well-being. Zuo’s investigation positively supports my research question that heavy social media use does affect self-esteem and mental well-being.
Similar to Angie Zuo’s findings on how social media can lead to self-esteem issues, I analyzed a second article based off a similar topic. For my second component of my categorical/topic structure of my literature review I analyzed Anh Phung’s article on
Social media and Self-esteem.
Her hypothesis is “people who focus the attention on others profile are likely to feel less confident about themselves when exposed to social media” (Phung p.8). In order to find out if her hypothesis is correct, she began a study by collecting and analyzing data from an online study in which she created. The reason she used an online study was because she considered it to be the fastest and most efficient way to get information for her research on the topic.
Through her online study she asked questions regarding the respondent’s demographics, how often they check social media on a number scale ranging from almost never to several times a day and their own person level of self-esteem. After Phungs data had been collected and evaluated, she found that her original hypothesis had been supported by the data she received. Phung concludes her research question by saying “I will be able to conclude that other-centered activities indicate lower level of self-esteem in users.
I believe my conclusion contributes to the research on the effects that social media has on people’s mentality” (p.11). Anh Phung found connections between self-esteem and social media use. The more often people checked their social media then more likely they were to have negative feelings about themselves. Just like Angie Zuo’s findings, Anh Phung found similar connections between social media use and negative feelings towards self-esteem.
Social media sites that we encounter everyday give plenty of chances for its users to feel self-esteem issues while scrolling through hundreds of friends and famous people’s pictures and posts. While you may not have noticed self-esteem issues, you may find that you make social comparisons between yourself and others.
On sites such as Facebook people have the ability to create a profile, post the best pictures of themselves and focus their profile around their most desirable traits and best self-views. Whereas face to face interactions you may not see those qualities at first or allow for the same degree of contemplation (Vogel, 2014). Erin A. Vogel, Jason P. Rose, Lindsay R. Roberts, and Katheryn Eckles from the University of Toledo created an article that I will use for my third component of my categorical/topic structure titled,
Social comparison, Social media and Self-esteem.
In order to find common links between social media, social comparison and self-esteem they created a hypothesis to test. Their hypothesis is “we anticipate that people who use Facebook more frequently will have poorer self-esteem and that this relationship will be mediated by upward social comparison on Facebook” (Vogel, 2014). To test their hypothesis, they used a correlational study by examining the relationship between Facebook use and self-esteem.
The participants for this study were college students and they completed questionaries’ that covered Facebook use, self-esteem and the amount of times they found themselves making social comparisons. After conducting their research, exanimating their hypothesis and connecting the two, they found that “Critically, as expected, frequency of Facebook use was negatively correlated with self-esteem where participants with more exposure to Facebook tended to evaluate themselves more poorly.
Frequency of Facebook use was also associated with an increase in the extent to which participants reported making social comparisons on Facebook” (Vogel, 2014). As they expected and as I expected, there was a relationship between social media use and negative self-esteem. Just as Zuo and Phung came to the same conclusion that these two topics intertwined, so has Vogel. Social media is proving through various accounts of research to have negative effects on self-esteem. It has also caused viewers to make social comparisons that are also affecting one’s self-esteem.
For my fourth and final component of my categorical/topic structure I critically analyzed another article on the topic of self-esteem and social media use. In an article written by Jasmine Fardouly, Phillippa C. Diedrich, Lenny R. Vartanian and Emma Halliwell they examined
Social comparisons on social media: the impact of Facebook on young women’s body image concerns and mood.
This article connects with my past three critically analyzed articles because it focuses on how social media affects woman’s body image/self-esteem. They tested their hypothesis in a different way than the last three articles did. Their hypothesis speculated that “the effect of Facebook usage on women’s mood and body image, whether these effects differ from an online fashion magazine, and whether appearance comparison tendency moderates any of these effects” (Fardouly, 2014).
The female participants were randomly assigned to spend ten minutes looking at an appearance-neutral controlled website, a magazine website or their own Facebook accounts. After completing these ten minutes of looking at their randomly assigned subjects, they had to complete a state of measure of mood, body dissatisfaction and appearance (skin, weight, face and hair related) (Fardouly, 2014).
While reading this research, I found this survey to be the most interesting because of the three different websites the participants had to look at. Based off these women’s results they found that the participants who had to spend their time looking at Facebook reported being in more of a negative mood than those other women who looked at the magazine website and controlled website. Their hypothesis was proven to be correct since they found that there was yet again, a connection between social media and self-esteem issues, in this case body image.
Through my extensive effort of analyzing four research articles and providing their hypothesis, research methods and conclusions, I have also come to the conclusion that my research question of “
does heavy social media use affect one’s self-esteem and mental well-being?”
has been answered. Based off the evidence I have provided and research I have done, I think my hypothesis is correct that heavy social media use does affect one’s self-esteem which moreover, affects one’s mental being. Mental well-being and self-esteem can be affected by social comparison, body image or overall dissatisfaction with the way we look and present ourselves. Given this subjects popularity, I think that even articles I did not read and analyze might come to the same conclusion. If heavy social media use leads to negative thoughts, how can we make positive thoughts occur without having to lessen our social media use? Social media is a critical part in today’s society, bringing light to the negatives will hopefully make it so more people can focus on positive self-esteem.
- Fardouly, J., Diedrichs, P. C., Vartanian, L. R., & Halliwell, E. (2014). Social comparisons on social media: The impact of Facebook on young women’s body image concerns and mood.
, 38-45. Retrieved October 1, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S174014451400148X.
- Phung, A. K. (n.d.). Social Media and Self-Esteem.
1-16. Retrieved September 9, 2018, from
- Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Roberts, L. R., & Eckles, K. (2014). Social media, social comparison, and self-esteem.
American Psychological Association,
(4), 206-222. Retrieved October 3, 2018, from
- Zuo, A. (2014). Measuring Up: Social Comparisons on Facebook and Contributions to Self-Esteem and Mental Health.
1-46. Retrieved October 10, 2018, from
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