Social media has quickly become one of the most popular aspects of society. This is especially evident with social media platforms like Facebook which currently has over a billion users worldwide. People all over the globe create profiles for themselves and provide details about their personal lives. They post images, socialize with friends, and meet new people. It's a space where people share their happiest moments and their deepest fears.
However, when considering how social media platforms have changed how we interact daily, we must also think about what impact it has on us individually. Specifically, how does social media affect self-perception and beauty standards?
Comparing Ourselves to Others
Studies show that humans naturally compare themselves to others. In fact, there's an entire theory based on the idea. The social comparison theory asserts that people compare themselves to others in attempts to determine their own personal and social worth.
Sometimes these comparisons are upwards, meaning the individual measures themselves against someone whom they consider to be superior to them. Sometimes these comparisons are downwards, meaning the individual measures themselves against someone to whom they consider themselves to be superior.
In some instances, these measurements can have positive effects. This is often the case when the comparison is a result of admiration and leads to better choices in health, business, or relationships. However, social media presents a unique challenge in that comparison often leads to a negative impact on self-perception--specifically as it pertains to beauty.
Social Media and Beauty Standards
There's always been a stigma present in mainstream media in regards to unrealistic beauty standards. From pencil-thin models to photoshopped celebrities, there's been no shortage of examples of how these images have affected the way in which the average person views themselves. However, over the years as online influencers have become more popular, it's easy to see how social media has the same effect.
Instagram models are constantly posting pictures of themselves, showing off their flawless physiques while endorsing weight loss and fitness supplements. The job of these influencers is to look perfect so that they can promote the merchandise. In many cases, their looks are a result of a combination of intense workouts, plastic surgery, and a considerable amount of retouching.
However, this has created a standard of beauty that's unrealistic. For most people, it's something that they can only aspire to but never achieve. And this has had a tremendous impact on how the average user perceives themselves.
Social Media and Self Perception
Ultimately, the "perfect body" doesn't exist. Even if you're completely happy with your appearance, someone else may notice something about you that they don't like. However, the problem is not how others view us, but how we view ourselves. And social media seems to be taking a toll on users' self-confidence.
In fact, there have been studies that have measured the effects of social media and self-confidence. One such study examined how temporary and chronic exposure to Facebook affected self-esteem. Ultimately, scientists concluded that people who spent more time on sites like Facebook had lower self-esteem. Not only that, but they were more prone to depression.
How Social Media Is Changing Self-Perception and Beauty Standards In the Longrun
This isn't to say that social media has changed society for the worse when it comes to self-perception and beauty. In fact, there are some indications that it may have a positive long term effect. In 2104, Dove found that women wrote 5 million demeaning tweets about beauty, most of which were directed towards themselves. 78 percent of these women felt that the way beauty is portrayed on social media was unrealistic.
However, 82 percent also said that they believed social media could also change these standards. The study concluded that by sharing their own experiences and body image stories, beauty influencers could create more realistic expectations.
There's no doubt that social media platforms can be a great tool. It helps to keep people connected and gives users an outlet on which to express themselves. However, these platforms can also have a dark side in that they often promote unrealistic expectations. And there's always a chance that upward comparison could have a negative impact on the user's self-esteem. This can easily lead many to wonder what social responsibility influencers have to the mental health of their followers.
Luckily, you don't have to do much research to realize that there is a movement taking place in the arena of beauty. Countless hashtags call for a celebration of various body types, shapes, and looks. And it's causing many to redefine perfection and include themselves in the definition. Ultimately, social media is in transition when it comes to self-perception and beauty standards.
About the Author
Gary Maystone is a content creator in the medical/health field, focusing on self-improvement and mental health topics. He is a South Florida native and a father of two who enjoys spending his spare time surrounded by nature.