Social media smothering: How social media can take a toll on women’s self-esteem

The rise in social media use has negatively impacted many women, causing negative self-esteem and body images.

Senior Reporter

How often have you tapped through Snapchat stories at night while in bed, seen the awesome lives people are out living and felt jealous?

Social media has become a place for people to flaunt their lives, and it has taken a serious toll on many college students — especially women. According to a study from the University of South Wales, social media often makes women feel insecure and self-conscious about how they look.

According to the study, social media users are more inclined to see thin people as attractive. The study also found that social media users exercise more, typically with the intent to become skinnier. Body comparisons are popular among social media users, and feedback from posts directly affects the self-esteem of the average user, according to lead researcher Martin Graff

Caroline Berger, a freshman at the university, feels similarly about social media.

“You see people curating what they want their life to look like to you,” Berger says. “You form this idea that this is the ideal woman and you see everyone try and fit that. If you don’t it can have negative mental effects.”

The issue of self-esteem stemming from visual media is no new problem, originating long before the rise of social media. Airbrushed images in magazines and linking weight to beauty in advertising is a trend that has persisted through the decades. It is simply manifesting itself more aggressively in the current age of social media through apps like Instagram and Snapchat.

Chiara Sabina, associate professor in the department of women and gender studies, provided insight into how to fight self-esteem issues stemming from social media.

“I think that we need to ask questions such as, ‘Who is making this?,’ ‘To what end are they making this image?,’ ‘What kind of values are they portraying through the image?’” Sabina says. “Once you start looking at images critically, you might see that the image has nothing to do with what they want to portray to you.”

Many college students have issues recognizing the reality of images they see on social media, according to the University of South Wales study. More often than not, feedback from social media is what feeds either a positive or negative body image.

There are positive ways to use social media, however.

“Taking ownership and love of your own self and your own body is a process that’s really important to start self acceptance,” Sabina says. “I think we need to be realistic. There are some advantages to social media.”

Social media has grown in the last ten years to be a giant, touching people and places all over the world. Although many use the platform as a way to curate the best moments of their lives, there are ways to ensure that body image and self-esteem issues do not arise from over-usage.

“[Social media] might be a way to foster a connection and stay in touch with relatives or people from out of town,” Sabina says. “It might be a little much for the goal to be zero usage, but being aware of usage, and starting to ask critical questions about what we consume is really important.”

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