Social Media and Self-Esteem

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“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

–Theodore Roosevelt

1. How do you avoid feeling left out when you don’t go away for spring break? Between Facebook, Instagram and so many other social media outlets you’re bound to see what others are doing for spring break, and if you’ve chosen to stay home it’s hard when you’re seeing everyone’s fun.

So your friends are heading out to Florida or Mexico for spring break while you slog through the wintry mix to get to your car. While you’re waiting for your car to warm up you check your Instagram account and see pictures of your friends frolicking in the sun in their bathing suits drinking margaritas. How are you not supposed to be upset when you’re looking at your friends’ highlight reels?

2. How does seeing people have fun and do stuff on social media affect someone when they are not a part of it?

Turns out you’re not alone. A number of academic studies connect passive following on sites such as Facebook and Instagram (with vacation photos as a prime trigger) with activating feelings of envy and resentment. It has also been associated with increased feelings of loneliness and depression, prompting one paper out of Utah State University to be titled, ‘ “They are Happier and Having Better Lives than I Am:” – The Impact of Using Facebook on Perceptions of Others’ Lives.’ 

3. What are some things that people can do to get their mind off of missing out? It can become very easy to become sorry for yourself when you feel like you’re on the outside looking in. Rather than subjecting yourself to social media postings that generate a lot of negative feelings, it’s important to assess your current status in your life, to “count your blessings,” if you will. It’s valuable to do some cognitive restructuring if you find yourself caught in a downward spiral. Although you may not be vacationing in the Dominican Republic, it gives you time to catch up on things you’ve wanted to do for a long time – visit friends you haven’t seen in a while, spending time with your significant other, seeing family, taking day trips to places you’ve never been before. Think about the projects or hobbies you’ve wanted to start for a long time – crafts, photography, hiking, spinning class, exercise, swimming, reading, and so on. Most of all, it’s a chance to enjoy the people around you for who they are, not what they’re doing!

It really helps to remember that just because you can’t get away for break doesn’t mean you don’t have good things going on, too. If you find it really hard to turn off those negative feelings:

  1. Stop looking at your social media accounts!

  2. Remember to be grateful for the people who are there in your life now.

  3. Visit people you haven’t seen in a while. They’d love to see you!

  4. Look for fun! Even going out for coffee with a friend would be a great place to start. It’s a chance to talk with someone who may feel exactly the same way you do.

  5. If you’re still struggling, perhaps seeing a counselor at your college counseling center would be helpful, or seeing a private therapist. Don’t get caught punishing yourself with unrealistic expectations!