July 8, 2016
When I was introduced to the world of social media in 2006, I was immediately hooked. I joined Facebook when I was 12 years old. At the time, Facebook required its users to be at least 13 years old and being one of the younger students in my class, I didn’t want to be left out. Needless to say, I lied about my age when I signed up. I remember other social media sites like Bebo, Xanga and Myspace becoming popular among the kids with whom I went to school. I loved them all! I didn’t realize at the time the huge role social media would play in my life and how it would define my generation.
Fast-forward 10 years and I am still on Facebook. I use other popular platforms like Snapchat and Instagram to keep up with friends from high school and college. I use Twitter to connect with #BachelorNation every Monday when the Bachelor or Bachelorette is on. I also manage all of the social media platforms for Kappa Delta National Headquarters and the Memphis, Tennessee, KD alumnae chapter. It’s safe to say I spend the majority of my time online.
There are many things I love about social media. Each platform can connect you with people all over the world who you wouldn’t have ever been in contact with otherwise. Whether it’s through email, social media or a blog post, the internet has made spreading the word about something fast and easy. In an instant you can rally communities of people together to help others in need due to a natural disaster or illness. Families have been reunited and pets have been found through viral Facebook posts. Talented individuals have been recognized on national news and talk shows because of videos they posted to YouTube.
However, I’ve realized that there is a downside to social media. Inappropriate posts can go viral in minutes. People’s reputations can be ruined and jobs can be lost. Entire organizations — including Kappa Delta — can take a hit for what one member may share. And confidence can be shattered.
Do you let social media affect your self-esteem? It is in our human nature to compare ourselves to others. We compare ourselves to what we see in the movies and magazines, and it’s no different online. When we compare our reality to someone else’s virtual reality, we create a skewed image of the people we follow online. If you scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed, you may see posts from your friends about graduations, engagements, study abroad trips or promotions. What you won’t see are the struggles your Facebook friend faced to graduate on time, the long hours she spent at the office working towards her promotion, or all the blind dates that didn’t work out.
For those generations who have grown up with social media, there is a fierce sense of competition to get the most likes and the most followers. We over-analyze our posts to create the perfect caption and find the best filter. We also look for validation through likes, whether it is the number of likes or hoping that certain people like a post. While this can give you a sense of support from your social media audience, it can also lead you to define your self-worth by a number on a screen.
I’ve come to realize that this way of thinking removes all the fun from social media. I don’t remember worrying about anything but spelling errors when I fell in love with Facebook in 2006. Social media should be a fun and safe place to express yourself and share updates on your life.
Use it to connect with people, share ideas and learn something new. Don’t use it to tear yourself or others down. You shouldn’t feel like you need to compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. Post photos, videos and thoughts because you like them, not because you want someone else to.