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Instagram vs. Reality – How the Online Social Sphere Affects Self-Esteem

by Skylar DeNoyer, BSW Intern


Social media is a platform all too familiar in the 21st century. First, we had the rise of Myspace in 2003 and Facebook in 2004, and these were only the beginning. Social media used to be about networking and connecting in order to provide opportunities or keep family and friends close. However, with the introduction of Instagram in 2010, the social sphere shifted to a more selfish approach. From photo editing and picture-perfect “influencers,” to the dark realization that often nothing we see online is 100% true, social media now has a stigma attached that will forever be detrimental to the mental health of younger generations.

When I was a teenager, I was wrapped up in the Instagram world myself. I saw so many celebrities and influencers posting pictures daily, getting likes and comments galore, and I wanted IN. I wanted to be that girl with the nicest looking profile, aesthetic filters, and likes upon likes. Followers and interaction were everything when it came to a successful social media page. What I did not realize what how it truly affected the way I viewed myself.


According to a recent survey, 71% of individuals edit their selfies before posting them online. With the existence of applications such as FaceTune and VSCO, children, teens, and adults are able to not only alter their physical appearance at the slide of a finger, but allow for the world to see them in light that is quite literally… filtered.


At such a young age, self-image is so fragile. Social media beauty standards have constructed an image that is impossible to replicate and toxic to look up to because it is not real at all.


According to the Child Mind Institute, research has been conducted showing that Instagram has made girls feel insecure about the way they look. These individuals have even blamed the platform for increases in anxiety and depression. The reason for this is because people only put forth the image of themselves that they want the public to see. Even if that means editing the picture until it does not look real anymore. Because who doesn’t want to look perfect in every single picture?


When on Instagram, young people are constantly exposed to those that are carefree and traveling the world, models that have perfect diets and figures, and celebrities that never seem to have a bad hair or makeup day. These depictions typically provoke comparisons to someone else’s highlight reel and cause emotional pain as some may feel that they are not good enough.


People often become addicted to scrolling through Instagram, as it can be a very mindless activity. The impact on self-esteem and mental health, however, can be subconscious. Here are some ways that you can manage the impact that social media may have:


3 Ways to Manage the Impact of Social Media


1. Limit Social Media Usage

Turn off notifications. Maybe even set aside a portion of time during the day to check-in. It may even be beneficial to provide yourself a time limit so that you do not engulf yourself in the world of social media for too long.


2. Think About What You Post

Be mindful of what you post online. Post your reality and make the conscious effort to not edit your own photos.


3. Stop Comparing Yourself

Review who you follow and unfollow people you find that you compare yourself to. When you are comfortable in your own skin, the seeking of external validation will come to an end. Your self-worth will always exist, social media or not.


If you are feeling anxious or depressed, or simply want to improve your personal self-image, first remember that you are enough. For further help with any struggle, please feel free to contact Graceful Therapy to schedule an appointment today.

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