When it comes to technology and social media, there are so many ways to edit your identity. You can take dozens of photos until you strike the perfect angle, one that makes you look thin, strong, or carefree. You can edit your text and emails until you craft the perfect statement. And you can even use programs like Adobe Photoshop to edit out the less appealing aspects of a photo.
Whatever form it takes, technology is full of opportunities to self-edit, helping us make the right impression on our friends, peers, colleagues, and even complete strangers that happen to follow us online. But constantly editing our appearance and the messages we sent out in the world can also have an adverse effect on our mental health.
Social media has become the ultimate form of self-editing with so many options to alter our appearance, from Instagram filters to typing out the perfect tweet on Twitter. According to a recent study, 60% of active social media users aged 28 to 73 said that using social media has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way.
When we log onto social media, we often see the best versions of other people, including perfectly polished photos, sexy beach pictures, swanky restaurants, and luxurious vacations. These kinds of posts can make people feel less positive about their own lives. But these social media users are likely self-editing their posts as well. According the same study, 80% of active social media users said that it’s easier to be deceived by others through their sharing on social media.
Self-editing our image on social media can also lead us to be more self-conscious. The latest Match Singles in America study shows that 51% of singles believe social media has made them feel more self-conscious about their appearance. If we feel that we’re not living up to our profiles on social media, this paradox can make us feel as if we’re living a lie, something similar to the impostor syndrome, which is when a person doubts their accomplishments and has a constant internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
Detroit-area psychologist Shelley Galasso Bonanno, M.A. writes, “We create an illusion of ourselves through our postings, and others’ responses support our perception that these glimpses somehow represent our complex and cohesive psychological selves… And, we ‘Like’ it.”
Social media cannot possibly encompass a person’s entire identity, but when we know that’s how others are perceiving us, it seems to take over our sense of self.
If you’re feeling dissatisfied with some aspect of yourself, whether it’s the way you look, how you choose to live your life, or the decisions you’ve made, you might want to consider spending less time on social media looking at other people’s posts. Looking to social media for validation can also become a hazard. You need to find other ways to validate your identity. Here are just a few tips that you can use to improve your sense of self:
You have a full life that doesn’t have anything to do with social media. Find ways to feel good about yourself that don’t involve taking selfies and uploading photos online. You can volunteer, start a new project, set goals for yourself, or get involved with a group or organization to prove to yourself that you can enjoy life and feel comfortable in your own skin.
We can be our own worst enemies when it comes to our self-esteem. Try to become more mindful in your daily life. If you find yourself lingering on negative thoughts, find a way to change the narrative and focus on something positive. If you allow these kinds of thoughts to fester, you will continue to have a negative impression of yourself regardless of how much you’re using social media.
We all have friends and acquaintances that love or know a certain side of ourselves, but some people truly know us inside and out. Reach out to those that love you for you and find a time to meet in person. Talk to them about some of the issues you’ve been facing in your personal life.
Learning to love yourself can take a lifetime. Try not to feel ashamed or embarrassed about your current situation. We’re living in strange times and navigating the digital world can be confusing. Cut yourself some slack and remember that you have value.