Relationship between Social Media and Self-esteem

The social media has gained immense popularity in the contemporary society.   It refers to virtual communities that are established in the internet platforms where people who are physically away interact and exchange ideas (Mehdizadeh, 2010).  The popularity of the social media is directly linked to the advancement in information communication technology.  Internet connectivity continues to increase where more and more people are gaining access to fast and reliable internet connection. The government and the private sector have invested heavily in ICT infrastructure to ensure people have access to a reliable internet connection. The aim of connecting people is to improve communication and access to information. The social media usage has therefore increased in line with the improving internet connectivity. Innovators have taken advantage of the advancement in ICT to come up with a variety of social media tools. Some of the popular social media tools include facebook, tweeter, and Youtube (Vogel et al., 2014). The way individuals interact with the social media varies from one social media sites to the other. Some social media sites like Facebook and tweeter are more interactive than others.   The social media has different impacts on people’s lives that make it necessary to investigate how different social media tools influence the users. The psychological impact of the social media has been the main area of concern that has led to many researchers focusing their attention on this area. The impact of the social media on self-esteem has been a major area of interest as there are indicators linking the social media with changes in self-esteem. Self-esteem refers how people view themselves and it is a key determinant of individual’s ability to realize crucial goals.

Reason for Engagement

Understanding the relationship between the social media and self-esteem requires examination of why people engage the social media. People’s needs are diverse implying that people access the social media for a variety of reasons. A good number of social media participants seek to make new friends. The contemporary society is becoming more individualistic where people are occupied with their careers and education. The busy schedules have brought loneliness where individuals hardly know their neighbors, schoolmates, or even workmate (Wilcox & Stephen, 2013). Everybody is dedicating every available minute pursuing personal goals. Such individuals use the social media to bridge the social gaps created by the busy schedules. They make friends in the social media where they interact with them to satisfy social needs. Other people use the social media as a communication tool to disseminate helpful information to other users. For instance, classmates or workmates can use the social media to discuss matters relating to class and work respectively.  A substantial proportion of social media users use it as a tool for gathering information. The social media provides the users with a platform for sharing information that keeps the users updated. For instance, people share information about major events happening across the word thus playing a crucial role in informing the masses. Lastly, some users of the social media use it for economic reasons. Social media marketing has gained immense popularity in today’s business environment. It provides a cheap and a reliable tool for communicating large volumes of information to many recipients.  Marketers use the social media to communicate to actual and potential customers. Using the social media for marketing is much cheaper than the conventional methods of advertising such as print media and radio and television broadcast.

It is clear people engage the social media due to a variety of reasons.  Comprehending the reasons for engagement provides a basis for evaluating the relationship between the social media and self-esteem. Some of the perspectives of evaluating how the social media and self-esteem relate include social capital, the intensity of engagement, forms of social media engagements, and need for approval.

Social Capital

Individuals suffering from low self-esteems lack the ability to build social capital (Steinfield, Ellison & Lampe, 2008). People are social beings with complex social needs making them value social capital.  Abraham Maslow hierarchy of needs is a critical tool for evaluating people’s needs and it identified five main human needs and included in the needs is social needs. The Maslow’s theory argues that people’s needs are in a hierarchy of five needs that are met progressively. In other words, lower level needs must be met before moving to higher level needs. The human needs from the bottom to top of the hierarchy include physiological, security, social, esteem, and self-actualization needs. Individuals who have met their security and physiological needs seek to satisfy the social needs.  In order to meet the social needs, individuals seek to create social capital that is comprised of social networks. People cannot live normal lives without forming social capital. People with low self-esteem are unable to physically interact with people that make it necessary to identify other avenues of interaction.  The social media platform provides a perfect alternative to physical interaction. Social media sites are made of large communities where individuals interact through chatting and sharing digital resources. As a result, a person suffering from low self-esteem is able to build a virtual social capital that enables them to meet social needs (Steinfield et al., 2008). In most cases individuals suffering from low self-esteem shy away from initiating conversations.  The social media provides an opportunity for interacting without having to start a conversation. Most social media sites allow users to update status that invites other users to make commentaries. Such features enable persons suffering from low self-esteem to interact with other social media users by commenting on their updates. Such engagements lead to interactions that help individuals to satisfy their social needs. Some people lack the courage to initiate a conversation with specific individuals. It becomes easier to communicate with such individuals if they react to the status update of an individual suffering from low self-esteem.  It is clear the social media and self-esteem are related since social media tools enable persons with low self-esteem to create social capital.

Intensity of Engaging the Social Media

The intensity of social media engagement refers to the amount of time spend in the social media.  Social media engagement varies from one individual to the other. Some people are heavy social media consumers while others are light consumers. A lot of research has been directed towards investigating the consequences of spending a lot of time in the social media. The social media is addictive and users spend more time interacting in virtual communities instead of talking to their neighbors.  The heavy consumption of the social is aggravated by the invention of mobile computing devices that allow flexibility in internet access (Mehdizadeh,2010).  Such devices include tablets, smartphones, and portable personal computers. They enable internet users to overcome the power challenge because they have inbuilt power storage that allows people to use their devices without having to be connected to an external power supply. The increased social media engagement compromises the ability of an individual to develop social skills. The absence of social skills leads to low self-esteem when individuals lacking social skills are exposed to an environment that needs physical interaction. Research shows that people with low self-esteem are heavy consumers of the social media.  As identified earlier people are social beings who strive to satisfy their social needs. Inability to satisfy social needs through physical interactions forces people to turn to the social media. It is clear low self-esteem and social media engagement have direct relationships. Low self-esteem can increase social media consumption as people seek to meet their social needs. On the other hand, intense engagement of the social media can lead to low self-esteem due to the inability of concerned people to build their social skills.

Forms of Social Media Engagement

People engage in the social media differently making it necessary to investigate how different engagements influence self-esteem.  Some people emphasize on interacting with close friends or people they know. On the other hand, others focus on creating new friends that lead to the establishments of large social networks (Mehdizadeh,2010).   Social people in the physical world tend to interact with people they know personally  in the social media that helps in strengthening of social bonds created in the physical world.  People with low self-esteem seem to create large networks and enjoy interacting with strangers. Apart from the size of social networks, social media users vary regarding their activities in the social media. Some people use the social media as an information tool implying that they browse social media sites to acquire information. Such individuals are passive social media participants and their presence is hardly recognized by other users.  Other people upload more information in the social media than reading its contents. People with high self-esteem are more likely to upload information in the social media than reading the contents. Active users of the social media are able to create networks easier that the passive users. The passive users are hardly noticed making it hard for them to attract other users. Active users who make numerous updates and commentaries increase their visibility that leads to the creation of larger networks.   Social media sites differ substantially implying that the nature of engaging the social media is to a great extent shaped by the structure of the social media site. Some sites like tweeter emphasize on interacting through texts while at the same time minimizing the sharing of digital resources such as videos. Others like Facebook allow unrestricted interactions allowing users to share digital contents and make lengthy posts and commentaries.

The Need for Approval

People satisfy their social needs when they are approved by others. However, the need for approval is inversely related to self-esteem. People of low self-esteem view themselves in a negative way and they are motivated when they get approval of others (Vogel et al., 2014). The fact that they are unable to create social networks in the physical world makes them exploit the social media as a platform for approval. Seeking approval can build or damage self-esteem. The incidences of cyber bullying are common in the contemporary society where bullies are using the social media platforms to access victims.  The social media platform invites approval and disapproval. Posting in the social media can attract negative criticism that can cause untold psychological torture to the affected persons. For instance, a social media can upload their photos thinking that people will like or approve the photos only to be criticized.  As a result, the self-esteem of such individuals is lowered by the negative commentaries. On the other hand, other social media users can approve the photos and make positive commentaries that boost individual’s self-esteem (Vogel et al., 2014). Bullies can also exploit other social media avenues to perpetrate atrocities against innocent users.  Social media sites do not have controls for preventing the use of fake accounts. Such accounts enable bullies to intimidate the social media users without revealing their identity. Cyber bullying is a crime and inability to identify the perpetrators complicates law enforcement. Activities of cyber bullying lower the victim’s self-esteem.

In conclusion, the social media and self-esteem are highly correlated. The two variables influence each other depending on the context of social media interaction. Self-esteem determines how one engages in the social media. It influences the extent of engagement and also how individuals engage the social media.  On the other hand, the social media can influence individual’s self-esteem.  It influences the development of social skills that have direct impacts on self-esteem. It also leads to approvals and disapprovals that build and destroys self-esteem respectively.


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Mehdizadeh, S. (2010). Self-presentation 2.0: narcissism and self-esteem on Facebook. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 13 (4), 357-364.

Steinfield, C., Ellison, N. B., & Lampe, C. (2008). Social capital, self-esteem, and use of online social network sites: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29 (6), 434-445.

Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Roberts, L. R., & Eckles, K. (2014). Social comparison, social media , and self-esteem. Psychology of Popular Media, Culture, 3 (4), 206-222.











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