Social Media’s Effects on Self-Esteem

As social media continues to grow in popularity, the consequences of heavy online use have become increasingly clear. While social media can have many positive effects, researchers are aware that it’s balanced by negative effects that can have long-term impacts on teens’ mental health and overall well-being.

As social media continues to grow in popularity, the consequences of heavy online use have become increasingly clear. While social media can have many positive effects, researchers are aware that it’s balanced by negative effects that can have long-term impacts on teens’ mental health and overall well-being.

For instance, some studies have shown a correlation between social media and online networking sites and a teen’s self-esteem. Specifically, Facebook has been pinpointed as a social networking site that tends to attract adolescents with lower self-esteem, exacerbating the problem as they engage in higher levels of social comparison thereby adapting an even further skewed self-image.

As a parent, it’s important to acknowledge that social media will be a part of your teen’s social life. However, you must also be aware of when it’s having an adverse influence on your child or teen and their self-esteem or mental health. With every passing year, social media continues to change the way people interact. As those interactions change, so does the mental health of each person involved. Numerous studies continue to indicate that social media use correlates to increased risks of depression, low self-esteem, loneliness, and anxiety.

According to some studies, social media use does appear to cause a decrease in self-esteem, with the age group most affected being girls between the ages of 10 and 14.

There’s so much more for researchers to learn about the relationship between social media use and self-esteem. This page goes deeper into recent studies and what the results tell us about some of the negative impacts of social networking platforms.

Teen girl comparing herself to someone else

Social Media and the Social Comparison Theory

It’s important to remember that social media has its advantages and can offer many social benefits. When used carefully, social networking sites can connect people to opportunities, information, services, and communities they might not otherwise have access to. However, ignoring the mental health effects of social media could prove detrimental to your child or teen.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that social media has the power to be more addictive than even alcohol or cigarettes. In large part, this may be because the internet is free, easy to access, available 24/7, and seemingly harmless. Plus, social media is more frequently used by children and adolescents. 

This age group is already more likely to succumb to self-esteem issues, as they’re less aware of who they are and who they’re becoming and fraught with comparisons, including appearances, clothes, grades, clubs and other interests, etc. Children and teens are bombarded with messages about who they should be and what they should like to be considered “cool,” accepted, popular, or even normal. It doesn’t get better when they step into the digital world where social comparison is rampant. 

Although social comparison has long been a part of life, social media has greatly increased the number of opportunities to compare and the ways in which we compare. According to the social comparison theory, which was established in 1954, people have an obsessive compulsion to evaluate themselves in comparison to other people. 

Yet, despite this unavoidable compulsion, comparing yourself to others tends to make you feel inferior. While some instances of social comparison are downward and make you feel better about your traits and abilities, most of them are upward. When you compare upward, you’re left feeling as though you’re lacking, which can negatively impact your self-esteem. 

For social media users who frequent social platforms, these feelings are only amplified. That’s because, with social media, the opportunity for social comparison is virtually infinite.

Pros and Cons of Social Media’s Effects on Self-Esteem

Of course, social media is not all bad. For some people, various platforms serve to heighten self-esteem, not decrease it. But why does healthy self-esteem matter in the first place? 

Having positive self-esteem often leads to:

  • Psychological well-being
  • Success later in life
  • Healthy peer attachment

As you can see, healthy self-esteem is very important for a young, developing person, and a young person’s self-esteem hinges largely on peer interaction and feedback. With social media, this door can swing both ways. 

Piece of paper saying "I Can't"

The Negative Effects of Social Media on Self-Esteem

When you already feel as though your life is lacking, social media only serves to amplify what other people have and what’s going well for them. After all, many people use their social media profiles to project a perfect image with carefully chosen photos, often showcasing different filters. As a result, you may begin to feel worse about yourself. 

Social media can also add stress to your daily life, especially when it comes to evaluating your own posts. Each time you post a picture or status update, you might worry about the number of likes, shares, and comments your post will generate. This obsession to be seen offers another opportunity for comparison, as you might wonder why another person’s images or content got more attention and positive feedback than yours. 

If you want your teen to continue using social media but also hope to combat the negative effects it’s having on their self-esteem, have them consider the following:

  • Remember that social media doesn’t paint an accurate picture of a person’s life.
  • Don’t determine your self-worth based on social media.
  • Take a break if you’re feeling down because of social media comparisons.

The Positive Effects of Social Media on Self-Esteem

Despite all of the negative effects covered in this article, there are substantial benefits to social media use as well. Not only does social media allow you to expand your network and meet people with the same interests, but it’s also a great way for you to stay in touch with family members and friends you already know in real life.  

Additionally, social media allows you to share special moments with the people you love. It can also be a fun distraction as you play games, watch funny videos, and share memes. Lastly, social media provides ample opportunity for connection. 

Here are some positive ways people use social media:

Receiving Support

Both teenagers and adults turn to social media when they need social support. By posting about a negative experience or difficult time, an individual gives their network the chance to send condolences, encouragements, and positive messages. 

Staying In-Tune with Feelings and Experiences

Many teenagers report feeling more connected to the feelings and lives of their friends because of social media. These days, you don’t even need to see a person to know what they’re feeling or what’s happening in their life. Having this continual social outlet helps combat loneliness and low self-esteem.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

It’s not possible to correct bad social media interactions if it’s not clear that there’s a problem. Watch for these warning signs of low self-esteem in your child:

  • Self-deprecation, even when joking
  • Ignoring or discounting achievements
  • Placing blame on one’s self when things go wrong
  • Failing to accept compliments
  • Feelings of anxiety, depression, shame, anger, or sadness
  • Crippling fear of failure

For teens, in particular, additional signs include:

  • Gradually declining school grades
  • Mood swings
  • Refusal to help with household chores or challenges
  • Giving up on a task at the first sign of frustration

At its core, self-esteem is how you think about yourself. Even if your child gives off the appearance of confidence, they could have low self-esteem. If your teen speaks negatively about their life, judges themself, has negative body image, or is hypercritical of their failures, they may be suffering from low self-esteem brought on by the excessive use of social media apps. 

You can help your teen try to combat these feelings by reminding them that their worth is not related to their social media interactions. Just as you wouldn’t want them to continue to pursue a relationship or friendship that makes them feel bad, encourage them to sign offline for a bit if social media is making them feel the same way.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem Infographic

Talking to Teens About the Truth Behind Social Media Content

If you have a teenager at home, you may wonder how to help them avoid social media pitfalls. The first step to addressing low self-esteem in your teen is to have an honest and open conversation with them. Strive to keep the tone of the conversation casual but respectful.

As you converse about the dangers of social media, keep in mind that social media can be beneficial when used in a healthy way. Try promoting healthy usage by encouraging the following practices:

  • Protect your privacy by not giving out identifying information to strangers.
  • Never share information you wouldn’t feel comfortable with the whole world knowing.
  • Remember that tone can be difficult to convey over text.
  • Always speak to others the way you want to be spoken to.
  • Remember that online social posts are permanent.

Of course, you can also encourage positive social media behavior by modeling it for your teenager. Tell your child that they can trust you when serious events occur online. If it does become clear that your teenager is using social media unsafely, stay calm. You want your child to feel comfortable sharing vulnerable information with you.

Parent talking with teen

Parents: What You Can Do to Help Your Teen with Low Self-Esteem Due to Social Media Use

If you notice signs of low self-esteem or social media addiction or overuse in your teen, it may be time to gently correct the way in which they use or interpret social media. Remember, low self-esteem in your teen can have lifelong consequences if not reversed. So, if you recognize a problem, you want to address it as quickly as possible.

Here are some tips to help your teen’s self-esteem get back on track:

  • Set limits for the amount of screen time for your child.
  • Set boundaries for when it’s appropriate to check social media accounts (never before bed).
  • Have an honest conversation about how unrealistic social media posts can be. 
  • Limit distractions by changing notification settings.
  • Set a good example about healthy social media use.
  • Encourage hobbies and activities that aren’t online, especially any activity that makes your child feel accomplished. 

Implement each of these tips gradually, discussing each change with your teen so that they know why it’s happening. Don’t overwhelm your teen with advice. Instead, guide them gently to a healthier mindset about social media — one that will encourage good self-esteem.

If your child or teen fell victim to the negative effects of social media use, contact Social Media Victims Law Center today to learn how we can help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

For individuals and children who have been

We only handle cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that we are paid a portion of any recovery obtained in the case and you do not owe us any attorneys’ fees if the lawsuit does not result in a recovery.

Every case is unique. Our attorneys will work with your family to evaluate your potential case and help you evaluate whether filing a lawsuit or other legal proceeding is in your family’s best interest. Generally speaking, the types of cases we handle involve serious mental health effects, including attempted or completed suicide, eating disorders, inpatient mental health treatment, or sexual trafficking/exploitation that was caused by or contributed to through addictive or problematic social media use by teens and young adults.

We are a law firm based near Seattle, WA comprised of lawyers who have spent their entire careers representing victims who have been harmed by dangerous products. We are also parents. Shocked and troubled by the recent revelations about the harm caused to teens and young adults by social media platforms, which powerful technology companies have designed to be highly addictive, Social Media Victims Law Center was launched specifically to help families and children who have suffered serious mental harm or exploitation through social media use to obtain justice.

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