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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Social media and our mental health


A girl critiques herself in the mirror.

The past few weeks in my New Media class, we have been learning about the impacts of social media on users and on their emotions and personalities. It is one of my favorite parts of the curriculum, as I feel like not too many people really talk about this topic. I also believe people tend to see this topic as a simple, black and white issue. However, there are definitely both pros and cons when it comes to social media and its effects on our minds. 

Since sites like SixDegrees and Friendster, social media has come a long way since its origins. Going through phases and fads, social media is continuously evolving in front of our eyes.  

What once started as a simple, new way to communicate with friends and family has now turned into a billion dollar business with users and their self esteems at the center of it. Millions of photos and videos are posted on social media every single day. Most of those photos are selfies, arguably to show off just how attractive we are or we think we are. 

With the majority having this mindset, social media has become a place for digital competition. Who is the prettiest? Who has the most money? Who travels the most? 

Though it is not everyone, a lot of people can see these different types of photos and pages, and they start to compare themselves. I have definitely compared myself to certain models and influencers I have found in the past. In the beginning, I also felt envious of my friends and their pages. I thought my page had to be just as good as theirs. 

Now I realize how ridiculous that idea was back then. I now enjoy social media the way I like to enjoy it. I know not everyone is like this. 

Yet this idea is a lot more common than we think. Back in 1954, social psychologist Leon Festinger “popularized social-comparison theory, which argues that we have an intrinsic desire to assess our progress by comparing ourselves to others” (1). He argued we make “what he calls ‘upward’ comparisons… We measure ourselves against people to whom we feel inferior” (1).

After learning this theory, I couldn’t help but feel like Festinger was ahead of his time. If he saw how we are today, he would probably have a ball analyzing us. His theory is especially an accurate way to view modern day social media and the digital competition of it all. 

Adults and even children are comparing themselves more and more everyday. And as we see apps like TikTok become insanely popular, the expansion of social media and the spread of trends has been rapid. 

If someone does feel this incline to compare themselves, it can arguably turn ugly. Some people can become obsessive over their likes and their followers. Likes and number of followers can dictate someone’s happiness. Again, I was definitely this way when Instagram first became trending. It was not a good place to be mentally, and it took a lot of self reflection to get where I am today when it comes to my comfortability of being on social media. 

I have also turned to find the good in social media. I now follow pages and accounts that focus on things I am personally interested in. I love to follow cooking and makeup pages. There are tons of amazing talented people on social media. There are also tons of businesses and influencers that may focus on things you personally enjoy and find happiness in. Try to find these types of pages, and try to stay away from pages that make you feel uncomfortable or like you have to compare yourself. 

I have been inspired by a lot on Instagram and TikTok. I also love the stories and cultures I learn about. Despite the digital competition there seems to be for some, there are some great people and sections on social media that can provide a safer, more happy digital environment for you to explore in.

This can also give you time to re-evaluate why you use social media and what it does for you. Make it personal!

1. https://www.mindwise.org/blog/mental-health/social-media-social-comparisons-mental-health/