• Patrick McAndrew

Don’t Let The Screens Steal Your Self

Is social media ruining our self-esteem?  For many, that seems to be the case.  Clarissa Silva recently wrote an article on the Huffington Post titled, “Social Media’s Impact on Self-Esteem.”  According to her research:

  • 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

  • 80% reported that it’s easier to be deceived by others through their sharing on social media

Wowza!  Those are some staggering statistics.  But when we take a step back to personally analyze ourselves and the world around us, it may not seem so staggering.

I would argue that a lot of people live their lives in the online atmosphere, clicking endlessly through the Internet, several of whom spend most of their days bombarded with e-mail messages.  Many jobs are played out through a computer screen, iPhone, or iPad.  And while we still need to interact with teams and managers to get work done, we will usually scurry off to our on individual cubbies and screens after the fact. 

This is why I love theater so much, or really any performative art form.  Sure, we have our independent work we need to get done.  An actor needs to research the world of the play and memorize lines.  An orchestra member must rehearse their music for hours upon hours.  A dancer can perfect his form in the privacy of his own home.  But the real work happens when the individuals come together to create something beautiful as a group.  It’s rare, and often a hindrance, if there are screens present in the rehearsal room.  They serve no purpose when two or more people must interact with one another, whether it be through words, music, or dance.

But this isn’t the modern fabric of today’s society.  And because it isn’t the modern fabric, we feel easily exposed and embarrassed as we compare ourselves endlessly to our Facebook friends or our Instagram followers.  This crushes our self-esteem quicker than an ice cube melting in a microwave.

Maxwell Maltz, author of the amazing and highly-recommended book, Psycho-Cybernetics, was a cosmetic surgeon who noticed that, after he performed surgery, his clients were still not happy with their appearance.  He discovered that one’s opinion of themselves comes from within and is highly influenced by their own self-image.  Maltz quotes,

“It is common knowledge among psychologists that most of us underrate ourselves, short-change ourselves, sell ourselves short. Actually, there is no such thing as a superiority complex. People who seem to have one are actually suffering from feelings of inferiority; their “superior” self is a fiction, a coverup, to hide from themselves and others their deep-down feelings of inferiority and insecurity.  To really ‘live,’ that is to find life reasonably satisfying, you must have an adequate and realistic self-image that you can live with. You must find yourself acceptable to ‘you.’”

We all create a “superior,” fictionalized persona on social media.  Social media, whether by nature or not, tends to push us in the direction of short-changing ourselves.  “They just bought a house?!  I want a house!  They just got engaged?!  We should get engaged!  They just got a new car?!  We should get a new car!”  Suddenly decisions are not made for the best interest of the individual, but in the perceived interest of those social media friends who don’t really care all that much any way.

Who are we trying to impress?  Are we trying to impress someone?  When we post on social media, what exactly are we looking for?  I do believe we aren’t trying to best each other consciously.  I think when someone experiences a major life event, sometimes it is easier to make an announcement on Facebook so that people know.  I truly believe that people don’t post things with malicious intent.

The responsibility is more on the viewer.  We may not be able to decide how we feel about a certain post, but we certainly can determine how we act on those feelings.  It’s important not to get caught up in what is being posted online.  A like here or there is fine.  Posting a photo?  Great!  I love looking at memories.  But let’s not live from our screens.  If we do, we start to associate our self-worth with everything that is happening online and most of the time we do this unconsciously.

There are multitudes of articles written about how social media and the Internet is hurting our confidence.  At the end of the day, we are responsible for cultivating our own self-esteem and confidence, with the help of friends and family.  Though this is the case, we must keep in mind the dangerous hole we can fall into when using social media.  We must use it as a tool as opposed to a measurement for the progress of our lives.

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