How to protect yourself from low self-esteem on social media

Four things influencers do to stop comparing themselves and despairing.

Over the past two decades, a link between social media and low self-esteem has been a consistent finding in studies. For people who are constantly on social networks as influencers and content creators, the concern is multiplied. In the next book The world of an influencer: a behind-the-scenes look at social media influencers and content creators (which I co-authored), dozens of interviews show the kind of hits influencers have on their self-esteem, the buffers they use against them, as well as the positive boosts they get from social media. Whether you’re an influencer or a casual user, the following are ways you can avoid low self-esteem on social media.

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Source: Karsten Winegeart/Unsplash

Don’t compare your life to other people’s highlight reels

The well-known phenomenon of comparison and despair on social media is based on social comparison theory, which assumes that people define and make judgments about themselves through comparisons with those around them.

The problem is that on social media, even influencers fall into the cognitive trap of comparing their real lives to other’s featured videos. Because you’re seeing so much information about other people, you may unconsciously process the posted snippets as their entire lives. And even people who try to paint the big picture tend to be positive, like abundant posts about birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, which could make their lives seem falsely like a vacation compared to yours. Catch yourself before you fall into this cognitive trap by keeping in mind the bits you’re taking in.

Don’t try to be number 1

Before social media, it was easier to claim a prominent place in your neighborhood, but on social media, there are seemingly an infinite number of people who are prettier, smarter, or more athletic. Don’t play a numbers game you can’t win. Instead, use bottom-up comparisons for motivation and focus on being better than you were yesterday, not the millions on social media.

Focus on unfiltered posts

For everyone, but particularly those with body image issues and eating disorders, leaked images on social media can be triggering even if you consciously know that poreless skin and flawless, chiseled bodies aren’t real. In addition to being intentional and keeping the facts about filters in your conscious mind, try to follow influencers and creators who are keeping things real by using fewer filters, instead of filling your feed with everything that’s fake.

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Use social media to empower yourself

If you use social media to acknowledge who you are without apologizing, while setting appropriate boundaries with followers, there may actually be self-esteem benefits. For example, many influencers point out that social media has given a voice to marginalized members of the community who might not otherwise have had a platform. In the book, Lauren “Lolo” Spencer (@itslololove on Instagram), an actress and disability activist, says: “For me, it actually helped my self-esteem, because the more vulnerable I become in my content, the more I share things that they’re not the social media standard… It’s a tool to say, I’ve already shared this, so you can’t hold that against me, because I’ve already owned this part of who I am or this experience.”

By finding the positives that empower you on social media, you can control your experience instead of social media controlling you.