As the gen z’ers become teenagers, a new generation of users is making their presence known online. This presence is creating negative consequences for the children currently using social media and their futures, both their personal futures and that of the next generation. The theory that social media can create a negative self image for teens and adults isn’t by any means a new idea.
According to the Child Mind Institute, there is mounting evidence of a link between social media and depression. In a 2017 study, it was found that the number of teens exhibiting high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33% between 2010 and 2015. Not to mention, the suicide rate increased by a staggering 65% in that age group.
While the facts remain disheartening, this is no reason to blame social media. It is more of a representation of how our youth was taught to deal with jealousy and the repercussions yielded from an unachieved and endless desire to fit in.
“You’re getting a false view of everybody when looking at social media,” school psychologist Jennifer Zacharski said. “It’s a very shallow self promotion, it’s not true of who you are or an authentic representation of your personality.”
Social media, while creating much angst, envy and, in extreme cases, depression, offers a unique window into an individual’s desired social perception. Using this window, it is possible for us to reevaluate our own desires and shape them surrounding what we see online and what we yearn for in reality to perhaps change our own perception of ourselves.
First off, it is important to understand that change isn’t a necessary outcome when it comes to reevaluating our self image. Whether your change is personal, social or just for fun, it’s important that this change be facilitated solely by your own desire to change. Trying to change for the sake of your acceptance by others is what causes depression, anxiety and an unfulfilled desire to become something you aren’t.
“If you are experiencing emotional trouble on social media I think quitting it is justified, but I think you should still make an attempt to deal with the problem,” junior Nolan Son said. “However if you envy someone on social media, it shouldn’t be a reason to just quit. I think you should use that envy to propel yourself to be who you want to be.”
Now, this doesn’t mean that it is necessary to change yourself upon feeling envious. Envy in small doses is healthy to most people. It allows us to realize something we want. However, it’s up to us if we decide to let jealousy eat up our emotions or motivate us to success.
That’s all easier said than done, but realizing that social media can help you discover what about yourself you aren’t satisfied with is the first step to blocking out the negative emotions associated with seeing the exaggerated truths of someone else’s reality on a screen, as it can get you to think of plausible ways to change positively. The next step is actually taking action in evaluating the necessity of a self-change. If we continue to show inaction, it’ll only put us down and erode our self image.
“It’s definitely a question of mentality,” Son said. “It was a healthy dose of envy that pushed me to get better in trumpet for band and it can be the same for social media users with their self image. It should push you to want to make yourself feel better.”
It’s important that we get a dose of personal interaction and keep a similar amount of social media, if not a smaller amount than that of real interpersonal interactions. A study conducted by San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge revealed that girls who used social media but kept up a high level of face-to-face interactions didn’t show any depressive symptoms that were seen in girls who used mostly technology to interact with others.
“You need to surround yourself with positive connections,” Zacharski said. “People ethat are going to support and understand you. If you want to make changes, make changes. Just remember that most of what you see on social media isn’t true.”
Really, it isn’t about dropping social media entirely when faced with an emotional obstacle. It’s about finding that balance between interpersonal connections and intrapersonal motivation that can push you through to improve your own self image using social media as a way to evaluate what to build upon and what to improve in your character.