An ode to social media: Self-esteem wears away as internet usage builds up by day


Design by Julie Jones

Social media takes up a majority of our time. Read how to reduce time spent on social media. Design by Julie Jones

Julie Jones, Staff Writer

Social media has been integrated into almost every aspect of our lives today, and it’s affecting our mental health more than we know. 

We live in a community where the amount of likes a picture gets is worth more than the memories made taking it. The higher the number, the bigger the smile. The younger generations are driven by praise from others to feel accomplished and accepted. Posting pictures online has become less about being able to communicate with friends and family, and more about fitting into the social norms of our society. We are driven by our comments, likes, and follower count because it is what we have become accustomed to.

Generation Z is the first generation to grow up with the technology we have today. Most of this group started using social media in middle school and can’t remember what life was like without checking their notifications every five seconds.

Checking Instagram and TikTok is something teenagers and young adults are doing multiple times a day, every day. The idea of “you produce what you consume” has been around for a good amount of time now, but I don’t think people think about it as much as they should. In today’s society, harmful diets and unhealthy lifestyles are glamorized and plastered all over the media. There are millions of young people around the world who have grown up thinking it’s “normal” to skip meals to keep their caloric intake down.

Celebrities and people with large platforms are promoting fad diets and pyramid schemes to young viewers. At this point, “diet culture” has been embedded into our brains and unhealthy eating habits are normalized and even joked about on occasion. Social media platforms are designed for individuals to doubt themselves, to question their life and make them wonder what they should put money into to “fit in.” 

Whether it be a skincare service, a style change, or the flaunting of one’s appearance and assets, we have become accustomed to and obsessed with the idea of comparing ourselves to others. We search for the most flattering filter to add to a picture to feel better about ourselves, and just a few years ago everyone was taking selfies with a Snapchat filter on. What some people don’t realize is that in doing this we are inputting information into our brain about wanting to look a different way. 

As we have become adjusted to the life of filters and the idea of wanting to change our bodies to feel “beautiful,” we have allowed the thoughts of “body image” to become linked with a negative connotation of beauty. Body image is just the way you view yourself, we choose how we look at ourselves. As a society, we have allowed the normalization of body shaming ourselves and others.

According to an article from King University Online, “Users need to be aware of the negative effects of social media on body image. The consequences can be devastating on the mental health of users, which makes it necessary that the psychology of social media receives more and more attention.”

Additionally, we allow ourselves to scroll through the same social media accounts that harm our mental health and social awareness.

Social media is peaking, and everyone is constantly staring at their cell phones. What the consumers of this rapidly advancing technology don’t see is that social media is designed to make us spend as much time on it as possible. The ads we see on our feed have been strategically placed there because artificial intelligence knows what we are going to do before we even open our phones. The notifications that pop up on our lock screen are there to distract you and make you open that app to make more money.

According to Tristan Harris, a computer scientist and businessman that helped develop and design Google, “We’ve moved away from having a tools-based technology environment, to addiction and manipulation-based technology environment. That’s what’s changed. Social media isn’t a tool just waiting to be used. It has its own goals, and it has its means of pursuing them by using your psychology against you.” This is a quote from /The Social Dilemma_a film that dives deep into the technology environment at large and explains methods we could never imagine as internet users.

The effects of this “rabbit hole” system are bigger than the profits these technological industries are making with our usage and cell phone addiction. No other generation has had this ability to go online and compare themselves to everyone else, sure there were magazines and some television shows, but today we open up Instagram and TikTok and open our minds to all this new information good and bad, true or false.

In /The Social Dilemma_, Harris later talked about the effects social media is having on younger generations as they grow up with the internet, “Especially social media starts to dig deeper and deeper down into the brain stem and take over kids sense of self-worth and identity.”

The separation between self-love and self-hate has become a fine line for Generation Z. In the past, even just 10 to 20 years ago, the main focus for teenagers was getting their education and making plans for their future occupations. Now we have become obsessed with the notion of self-love, more than ever the younger generation is being called narcissistic.

Social media engineers have done an amazing job of promoting the idea of self-love as it tears us down mentally, and at a certain point, physical aspects will start to be affected as well. Mental illness caused by social media is starting to be ignored because so many people in Generation Z have been affected in similar ways. It’s pushed aside and not discussed because it’s just a generational issue that no one has experienced in such heightened ways, other than us.

According to WGU, “Between sleep, social media, and the world around them, it’s easy to see why Gen Z faces chronic stress… Gen Z feels more stress about these issues than other generations, according to research. They are also more likely to have direct mental and physical health problems as a result of these stressful situations.”

At this point, there is no way to completely disconnect the internet and certain media accounts. Cutting back on time spent on your phone could be the change needed to take steps forward. There are some positive aspects of social media, but until we can make the changes required for social media to be a safer environment, the negatives out way any positives.