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Navigating the Impact of Social Media on Self-Esteem

Apr 19, 2024 | Self-Esteem

In today’s digital era, scrolling through social media has become as routine as having a cup of coffee in the morning. Yet beneath the surface of this daily habit lies a complex relationship between online interactions and our self-esteem.

Social media platforms offer unparalleled opportunities for connection and engagement and also present challenges that can significantly impact our sense of self-worth and well-being. While social media can be a source of inspiration and community, it can also create situations of unhealthy comparison and unrealistic standards of perfection. Although anyone can fall into the influence of social media, teens are particularly vulnerable to the potentially negative impacts of social media.

These challenges can profoundly affect an individual’s self-esteem. However, protective factors and strategies can mitigate these negative impacts, fostering a healthier relationship with social media.

Self-Esteem in the Context of the Digital Age

Self-esteem, the subjective evaluation of one’s worth, has found a new landscape for expression and challenge in the digital age. Social media platforms, where users frequently share highlights of their personal and professional lives, have become significant in shaping perceptions of self-worth.

This digital landscape offers instant feedback on one’s appearance, achievements, and social status through likes, comments, and shares, turning every post into a potential reflection of personal value.

However, this constant online engagement also promotes social comparison. Individuals, especially children and teens, compare themselves to the carefully curated highlight reels of others, leading to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and decreased self-esteem.

The Dual Faces of Social Media: A Double-Edged Sword

Despite these challenges, the digital age presents opportunities for positive self-expression and community building. Platforms serve as spaces for support, learning, and connection with like-minded individuals, indicating the dual influence of social media.

On one hand, social media provides a powerful platform for self-expression, advocacy, and connection. Individuals can share their stories, celebrate their achievements, and find communities that resonate with their values.

Negative Impacts of Social Media on Self-Esteem

On the other hand, social media also has the potential to impact self-esteem negatively. The pressures of comparison, the pursuit of validation through likes and follows, and exposure to idealized representations of life can severely affect mental well-being.

This environment fosters a culture of comparison, where individuals measure their self-worth against the selective portrayal of others. Because of how individuals represent themselves on social media, people see the pinnacle of success and its results without seeing the hard work and effort it took to achieve that success.

Comparing one’s lived experience to the carefully curated representations of others creates unrealistic benchmarks of success. Normalcy is compared to the tail ends of humanity rather than the middle, where we all share common ground.

Protective Factors Against the Negative Impacts of Social Media

Despite its potential for social comparison and its dangers, it is not viable or practical to get rid of or ignore social media. It is as much a part of the global community as the internet and as essential for bringing people together.

However, there are several protective factors that individuals can use to navigate social media and maintain a healthy relationship with it, ensuring their self-esteem and mental well-being are safeguarded.

  • Digital Literacy and Critical Thinking: One of the foremost protective measures is enhancing digital literacy, or understanding the nature of content, the validity of information, and modeling healthy comparison with peers. Digital literacy encompasses the idea that one must judge the truthfulness and legitimacy of social media posts, and not accept as truth merely because something has been posted for all to see.
  • Setting Boundaries with Social Media: Setting healthy boundaries around social media can limit the impact of messaging and give a more balanced perspective on life, rather than being completely dependent on social media or the internet for information or validation.
  • Healthy Offline Relationships and Activities: Cultivating a rich offline life filled with meaningful relationships and engaging tasks provides a sense of accomplishment and belonging that is more tangible and fulfilling than solely online validation.

Strategies for Improving Self-Esteem in a Connected World

In today’s digitally interconnected world, social media platforms are pivotal in shaping our daily interactions, perceptions, and even our sense of self. This connectedness brings people together, fosters global communities, and provides platforms for self-expression and discovery.

However, the very nature of these digital interactions can also pose challenges to achieving and maintaining a healthy level of self-esteem. The constant exposure to curated lives and the pressure to meet unrealistic standards can make it difficult for people to appreciate their value and accomplishments. It is also well documented that frequent users of online social media are vulnerable to screen addiction, a problem which grows slowly but powerfully in vulnerable people.

One of the most effective ways to navigate problems which arise from the complex nature of social media is with a supportive therapist. Therapy offers a safe environment where individuals can explore their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors related to social media use. This relationship can facilitate a deeper understanding of one’s self-esteem and place in a connected world.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviors with new behaviors. In the context of social media, CBT can help address issues such as social comparison, fear of missing out (FOMO), and the internalization of unrealistic standards.

By working with a therapist, individuals can recognize distorted perceptions of online experiences and reframe these more positively and realistically.

Competitive Memory Training

Competitive Memory Training (COMET) is a therapeutic technique that focuses on improving self-esteem by changing how positive and negative thoughts are processed. Rather than replace or negate negative thoughts or emotions, individuals are guided to consciously think about positive memories, giving them more emotional weight and priority over negative memories.

Through COMET, individuals are trained to recall positive memories and qualities about themselves more readily, essentially “competing” against the negative self-views often reinforced by social media comparison.

Mindfulness Training

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and fully engaged with the current moment without judgment or distraction. In the realm of social media, mindfulness can help individuals become more aware of their usage patterns and the emotional responses triggered by online content.

This heightened awareness allows one to recognize negative feelings as they arise, offering the opportunity to respond to them more thoughtfully and less reactively.

Build Your Self-Esteem With Start My Wellness

Social media is an essential part of the modern world and connects us in a global community. However, while it opens doors to global connection and self-expression, it also presents challenges that can undermine self-esteem.

Start My Wellness recognizes the complexity of maintaining self-esteem in an ever-connected world and is ready to assist individuals in navigating these challenges. Our practice is dedicated to providing a supportive and judgment-free environment where clients can explore their relationships with social media and develop strategies to enhance their well-being.

If you want to improve your self-esteem and build a healthier relationship with social media, Start My Wellness is here to guide you. Our expert therapists are ready to work with you to create a personalized plan that addresses your unique needs and goals.

Contact us today at (248)-514-4955 and meet our therapists to get started.


  1. Start My Wellness: What Can the Internet Teach Us About Mental Health?
  2. Start My Wellness: Social Media Breaks
  3. Start My Wellness: What Can Social Media Teach Us About Ourselves?
  4. Start My Wellness: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  5. Science Direct: Competitive Memory Training for treating depression
  6. Research Gate: Competitive Memory Training for Treating Low Self-Esteem
Dr. Anton Babushkin

Author: Anton Babushkin, PhD

Looking for a Therapist? Start My Wellness has highly experienced Licensed Therapists that are currently accepting new patients.


Blog Posts Tags: Social Media
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