Is Facebook Killing Your Self-Esteem?
Facebook is most often thought of as a harmless diversion. At its best, it’s a great way to connect with long-lost friends; at its worst, it’s a time waster and killer of productivity. However, researchers are wondering if Facebook could be doing more insidious damage, harming you at your very core and destroying your sense of value and purpose.
Facebook users have a tendency to present their very best faces to the world. You tend to post pictures that are your most flattering, you post status updates that detail the great time you had last night and you share funny stories and jokes with friends. Professor of Communication at Cornell, Jeffery Hancock, believes that Facebook is ultimately a self-esteem booster.
Facebook vs. Reality
On the other hand, most people understand that there’s a significant difference between the face presented to the outside world and reality. Sometimes, acknowledging that difference can prove painful and you may be forced to take a long, hard look at your life. When you have to analyze your life, looking for material that is appropriate or that you would feel comfortable posting on Facebook, you begin to doubt yourself and question the quality of your life.
Compounding the problem is the fact that everyone else is also presenting his or her very best self. When you’re scrolling down the screen and seeing photos of your friend’s new baby or a coworker’s Caribbean cruise, do you remind yourself that they are also sanitizing their life? Many do not.
Is Everyone Else is Having More Fun?
Stanford Ph.D. candidate Alex Jordan conducted a survey in which 80 undergrads ranked peer experiences according to their posts on Facebook. The study participants consistently ranked others as having considerably more fun and enjoyable lifestyles than they themselves were having. This fundamental error happens constantly, and people believe that their own lives are far less exciting and interesting than they could be. Even so, they continue to present their own better versions of their lives on-line, and, in turn, inspire others to think they are having more fun, in a strange, damaging cycle. Today, information travels a lot faster, and the speed and accompanying photos can seriously compound the problem that seems to be inherently wired into us.
When You Already Feel Bad About Yourself
Jordan’s study found that by attributing more enjoyment and fun to friends and acquaintances, the study participants in turn felt more depressed and sad about the state of their own lives. While the study is not able to prove causation and only demonstrates correlation, it doesn’t seem a huge leap to see that someone who is already prone to low self-esteem and depression may have their negative feelings compounded by repeated exposure to their friend’s seemingly “perfect” lives.
The obvious solution to the problem is to step away from the screen. Disconnecting from Facebook for a while will do some good. Invite friends to spend some real time with you. Go out to lunch or have a nice walk in the park, communicating in the real world and in real time. You might find out that your friends are not quite as witty or perfect as they seem online, but they will be more real, and you will appreciate them more.
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