It’s been many years since books like “Are You There God?  It’s me Margaret” and “Blubber” by Judy Blume were written, or ABC After School Specials aired programs like “Magical Make-Over”, “Divorced Kids’ Blues” and “Getting Even:  A Wimps Revenge”.  These historical gems affected us so deeply by revealing the struggles of not only learning who we are but loving who we truly are that we ingested every word with insatiable hunger.  We watched countless T.V. specials – eyes glued waiting for that acknowledgment of universal understanding and social acceptance we so desperately needed.  Let’s face it, we all wanted that high school movie hand-clap that starts slow and steadily builds until everyone is cheering for you!

Before Social Media, our lives for the most part, were our own.  When the school bell rang the “social media” of our day was over – we went home, did our homework, maybe talked to a friend on the telephone, had dinner with our family, watched some T.V. programs, perhaps the news, then went to bed.  We would then begin the process all over again in the morning; go to school, talk to our friends, hear gossip, pass notes, and so on. Nowadays, you are “on” 24/7.  I often hear many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers’ say with great relief “Thank goodness there was no social media when I was in school, it was hard enough!”  Before social media we basically did the same things but with no digital footprint.  Now, everything we do is under a spotlight and there is no school bell to end the day.

Self-worth is the opinion you have about yourself and the value you place on yourself.

How does social media affect our self-worth?

We all have at one time or another compared ourselves to others, some do this daily – but as Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy”, and seeing all types of comparison nonstop stinging you like a jelly fish will deplete your joy jar if you let it!

Comparison was around before social media, but we compared ourselves to friends, family, and neighbors, people we met in person and could make a much more detailed judgment.  “Hey, Bobs family just came back from their trip to Hawaii!”  “Wow, look at that new car in their driveway!” etc…

Think about the pictures you see on Facebook and Instagram and your thoughts about them. Everyone else seems to be doing something fun or interesting, and most people don’t realize that for every person they see posting vacation photos, there are a 100 people who aren’t. This leads to unhealthy comparisons.

Our appearance is frequently compared to others; how much you weigh, how attractive you are, do you have lines on your face, is your hairline receding?  The result of your own self-perception can be a nightmare when your self-worth is based on your physical appearance.  Especially when you look at the barrage of flawless selfies that keep popping up on your news feed.

Money money money – If you are constantly measuring your self-worth based on your net worth, you will never be satisfied because “cost” has now replaced “value”.  Throughout my Human Resources career I had many people asking for more money – not based on their merit, but based solely on the salaries of others.   You feel your personal stock begin to drop when you click on your Facebook home page and see pictures of friends on expensive vacations, buying new cars, or remodeling their houses.  It never ends, and your self-esteem starts to tank if you believe you’ll never have enough.

Circle of friends – the expression “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, plays a big part in the lives of those that need others to validate their own self-worth.  Befriending people just for the sake of name-dropping in order to get attention or make you feel important can definitely take its toll.  Taking a selfie with a movie star may be cool but taking selfies with people you believe make you look cool is a slippery slope.  A lot of self-worth issues and sadness exist when you depend on others to make you feel good about yourself – especially when you see them “Check-in” to an event they didn’t invite you to.  Ouch!

Career – “I made it!  I am a Vice President of Business Cards!”  (That was an actual title a colleague and I made up years ago at a company that actually had 10 different V.P. titles.)  If you place your self-worth on your title or status level, then what happens if you are demoted or lose your job?  

Social media has allowed us to keep boredom at bay, be privy to more trending news and world culture, and maintain connections to family and close friends more easily.  I have wouldn’t have been able to reconnect with old friends or stay in constant contact with new friends without social media. But, instead of focusing on comparing yourself to people on your news feed,  try to make your true connections even stronger. You have the choice to follow or unfollow content on social media – you don’t have to shut yourself off entirely, but you also don’t need to consistently subject yourself to media that makes you feel bad about yourself.

How has social media affected your self-worth?