The Effects of Social Media on Self-Esteem

Posted by Kathy Surdin on 12/3/2018

Social Media


     Social media is a wonderful vehicle for learning, sharing and exchanging ideas.  But is it also a means to attain validation, attention, popularity, and self-promotion?  Students can be impressionable and easily influenced by their peers.  Those who are not emotionally grounded are especially vulnerable to external influences.

     People generally "like" items without much examination or thought.  This is in deep contrast to the recipients of "likes" who rely on the feedback for instant gratification and validation.  Some students are likely to become obsessed with receiving "likes" for a momentary feeling of euphoria.

     Seeking approval and popularity have always been valued and envied, but through social media, it is much more prevalent as an end to itself.  Traditionally, affirmation resulted from an accomplishment, skill, or expertise in a particular field, not merely from a casual, personal photo.  But now, the goal is to be popular and seek attention.  Moreover, some people attempt dangerous daredevil stunts for shock value and attention seeking purposes, while others are self-referential, displaying how fulfilled and perfect their lives are to the public, whether it is true or not.  Students compare the images they see online to their own lives and often feel inadequate, depressed and lonely.  What constitutes a fulfilled life?  Are we attempting to emulate the envied lives of celebrities?

     We all want young adults to be successful and healthy.  As educators, we can encourage students to develop confidence and self-esteem from within, rather than relying on external measures.  Self-acceptance and realistic perceptions of oneself must be reinforced, nurtured and valued.  The following are resources to help students maintain positive and healthy experiences with social media.


     Social Media and Self-Doubt - What we can do to help students build a safe and reasonable relationship with social media.

  • Take social media seriously
    • Make sure to really listen and be careful not to dismiss or minimize students' experiences.
  • Encourage students to think outside the (crop) box
    • Ask what has been cropped or edited out of their peers' "perfect" photos and why.
    • Are their friends really the people they appear to be online?
    • What's the purpose of posting a photo?
    • What is it about getting "likes" that feels good?
    • Does looking at social media affect your mood?
  • Model a healthy response to failure
    • Let students know that failure is part of how we learn to succeed.
    • It's nothing to be ashamed of and encourage them to accept it with grace and try again.
  • Praise (and show) effort
    • Praise students' efforts no matter the outcome.
    • Model your own efforts, especially those that don't end in success.
  • Go on a "social holiday"
    • If you ask your students to unplug, model it as well.
  • Trust people, not pictures
    • Don't rely on social media to know how your students are really doing.
    • Encourage students to talk about their feelings and praise them for reaching out to you.


Social Media's Impact on Self-Esteem