The Interrelationship Between Social Media, Self-Worth and Mental Health Crisis

Life is not all roses. The reality of life is everyone goes through something tough or challenging in life. Everyone has their problems to solve, either tricky projects, relationship issues, career crisis, or whatever.


We only get a small snippet of people’s daily lives on social media

Mostly, people are unwilling to expose their weakness, failures or life troubles on social media but something which they are able to show off, something they are proud of, or something they are able to brag about.  


If you go through most people’s lives on social media, you’d think everyone is living their best life as ever. Naïve people who have a limited social circle can easily get the wrong perception that they are the only ones who deal with problems in life. Indeed, most people are unable to see the “behind-the-scenes” of those who are not close to them. And that’s why social media indeed distort people’s perception of other people’s real lives.

We all know that. But still, most naïve people are faced with constant false images ‘perfect’ lives” or ‘perfect’ bodies and most people judge other people’s lives chiefly based on the limited information on the posts on social media.


A social psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Jonah Berger, argues that bad news and shocking situations work for broadcast media. He asserts that in social media, the reaction is what matters more than anything else. Those who use social media don’t want their friends to see their depression, anger or dull life, and accordingly, the things people tend to share are happier and lighter.

Most people want to make themselves look good in public. When it comes to selfies, countless people use photo-editing software to make themselves look unrealistically attractive or beautiful by altering their skins or even features. Either By FB, Twitter or Instagram.  


Conducted in interviews from people ranging from ages 28–73, this Huffington Post article found that “60% of people using social media reported that it has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way, 50% reported social media having negative effects on their relationships, and 80% reported that is easier to be deceived by others through their sharing on social media[1]


It has been proved that more than half of the high-profile people on social media are often those who are desperate to secure people’s recognition. They demand attention much like as people need oxygen.


Social media is designed to be a platform to maintain interpersonal relationship and a showcase to share the good happening in our lives. The intention is good. And most people feel emotionally rewarded as getting lots of likes on FB.


Nevertheless, we’ve seen people can’t help but value their popularity on the numbers of followers or likes on FB, Instagram or Twitter. Aside from this, people generally make a direct connection of their self-worth based on their popularity on social media. Consequently, we’ve seen countless people get frustrated or even depressed when their FB posts do not get enough attention, likes or positive feedbacks.


Social media can be a double-edged sword

Social media plays a huge role in many people’s lives. And psychologists found potential drawbacks of social media. A recent study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology set up an experiment to see the direct effects of social media on our happiness. They instructed a group to limit their social media time to 10 minutes per day for each platform for three 3 weeks. And another group is permitted to use social media use as they normally do. They found that the individuals who were asked to limit their time spent on social media showed significant reductions in symptoms of depression and loneliness.


Self-Esteem and “Vanity”

How does social media affect a person’s self-image and mental state? How does social media affect a person’s self-worth, self-esteem and self-identity?  How can social media affect our mental health? Is social media good for everyone, including those who have social phobia symptoms? How does social media affect the mainstream society?

In 2017, the latest Match Singles explored how social media has impacted people’s dating lives and they found that 57% of singles say social media has generated a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). In a sense, everyone is suffering from a fear of being excluded, neglected or unneeded. 


Match reported 51% say social media has made them feel more self-conscious about their appearance. Further, the report shows that “Facebook users are becoming increasingly depressed from comparing themselves to their own profile,” which means many people feel they are not living up to the “best” form or possibility of themselves.


Author Rhodes asserts that “Emotionally secure people do not struggle as much with these issues. However, a large portion of our population has emotional insecurities.”



The Negative Impacts of Social Media on Teenagers

In the past, teenagers have a very limited channel to secure recognition or self-actualization aside from academic performance. The rise of social media became another platform for teenagers to earn attention, approval or even self-worth.

It’s common that people assume online likes and shares to a person’s popularity. Those who fail to earn enough likes and shares might be suffering from a sense of loneliness or collective isolation that they might feel being ignored or unloved by the public and suffer from self-denial.



In 2017, Experts warned that teenager girls experience pressures created by social media. Government-funded research showed that one in four (24%) girls aged 14 and 9% of boys the same age in the UK are beset by negative emotions resulting from social media, including loneliness, self-hatred and feeling unloved.[2]




With the rise of social media, teenagers or even adults incline to confirm their self-worth and popularity by earning more likes and shares on social media, like IG and FB.


What is worse, there’s a pressure for teenagers to “keep up with their peer group” or they will be socially excluded, isolated or marginalized.


Increasing numbers of academic studies found that mental health problems coincide with the prevalence of social media.

Rates of stress, anxiety and depression are rising sharply among teenage girls in the past decade. In England, teenage girls who committed self-harm has jumped from 10,500 to more than 17,500 a year over the past decade.

The numbers of self-poisoning among girls also rose dramatically.


As reported, teenage girls are suffering from peer pressure, and they are troubled with low “body dissatisfaction” and low self-esteem about their appearance and more.



Use of social media was also contributing to a growing culture of sleep deprivation among young people, which could easily trigger mental illness and depression.


Social Media : Comparison and Competition of Popularity


Another study of teens ages 13-18 from the UCLA Brain Mapping Center found that receiving a high number of likes on photos showed increased activity in the reward center of the brain.3 Everyone feels good to be “liked.” Thus, they are tempted to gain more attention and likes on line.


Some research points a fact that there’s a rise of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders in teenagers. One study conducted by University of Pittsburgh found a correlation between time spent scrolling through social media apps and negative body image feedback. Those who had spent more time on social media had 2.2 times the risk of reporting eating and body image concerns, compared to their peers who spent less time on social media.[1]


Another study from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine showed that the more time young adults spent on social media, the more likely they were to have sleeping problem and depression symptoms.2



11 Common Downsides of Social Media

  1. cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is associated with an elevated risk of suicidal thoughts

  1. overly Focusing on likes and the desire to gain “likes” on social media.
  2. Try to win out others or make comparisons with peers, ranged from physical appearance, love relationship to careers, etc. Persistent Comparison guarantee pressure, negative emotion and depression. A few years ago, a neat study found that the link between social media and depression was largely mediated by “social comparison.” Another study from York University in Canada found that young women who were asked to interact with a post of someone whom they perceived as more attractive felt worse about themselves afterward.
  3. Addiction of social media and sleep deprivation

Many people can’t help tweaking their time on social media.

  1. Having too many fake friends or vulnerable friendships on social media.
  2. lack of privacy on social media.

People share and update everything as much as possible to earn more attention to prove their popularity.

  1. Huge gap between life on social media and real life. Some people mask their real life to earn more attention.
  2. less frequent face-to-face interactions
  3. Too much time spent scrolling through social media can potentially result in symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. Plenty of studies have found correlations between higher social media use and poorer mental health, including depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, lower self-esteem, and even suicidality. Sure enough, it depends on how much time you spend on it per day.

A study conducted by University of Pennsylvania found that people who limited their social media use to 30 minutes for three weeks have lower level of depression and loneliness.[2] Hunt asserts that “It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media makes you feel less lonely ”The participants who spent the most time on social media had 2.6 times the risk.


  1. fear or anxiety of being badly judged and compared.
  2. Fear of missing out /FOMO


The Upside of Social Media

1.Build connections or strengthen relationships.

2.Social media satisfy our desire for socialization. Social media make socializing easy and immediate. Teens who struggle with face-to-face socializing or social anxiety might benefit from connecting with others through social media.

3.Those who are marginalized in reality or in the campus might able to find the same sorts or friendship through social media, which might lower the chance of self-isolation.



  1. Limit your time on social media consciously. Find ways to increase your “off screen” time. 
  2. Minimize Your Time focusing on other people’s lives but yours. ★★

3.Spend more time in nature.

4.Exercise more or read more books to upgrade your knowledge or skills, which are effective to boost to self-confidence and self-worth. 


Statistics: One in five developed mental disorder by the age of 14

Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World is the theme the World Federation for Mental Health has elected to adopt for World Mental Health Day 2018, and the South African Federation for Mental Health has also adopted this for October 2018’s Mental Health Awareness Month.


In UK., the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In US., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at


What urges people to social? Social for a reason…

78% of the NYT survey respondents indicated that they shared information to stay in contact with people who they otherwise might lose track of, or who would slip out of their lives. By sharing their personal lives on line, they catch friends’ attention and keep friendship long after they stop seeing each other on a regular basis.


Social media: A Shortcut to demonstrate ourselves

Online sharing becomes a performative act based on self-description and self-definition

Studies found most people want to put their most desirable images forward on social media, and often share only if they get a satisfying result.

For 68% of respondents, sharing is about showing other people who they are and what they care about by sharing their thoughts and daily lives, whether it’s to their friends or the outside world.

According to the share rates of various articles on the New York Times website, the most popular articles had a few traits in common. More often than not, the articles saw proportionally higher share rates inspired excitement, laughter or awe.

[1] According to studies published, “Social media has been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression, narcissism and decreased social skills.”

[2] In 2017, NHS data shows that 68% rise in hospital admissions because of self-harm among girls under 17.

#sensitivity to criticism


Margaret W. Lavigne

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