OPINION: Social media and the feeling of inadequacy

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) identified a correlation between time spent on social media — Instagram, in particular — and how it may affect self-esteem levels, especially amongst younger generations. (Photo by Sophie Armstrong and Simona Catalano)

A beautiful flower arrangement sent from a seemingly perfect boyfriend, toned and fit bodies posing in front of a glamorous beach on the French Riviera, big smiles on a Southern Californian pier these are just some of the vibrant images that we are constantly scrolling past on our Instagram feeds at any given moment.

We spend a lot of time scrolling. According to a Mediakix study conducted last year, it’s estimated that the average person will spend a total of five years and four months on social media within their lifetime. That being said, how detrimental can seeing flawless, unrealistic images and boastful captions this frequently be to our morale?

I, for one, have most definitely felt overwhelming feelings of inadequacy as I scroll through images of girls with toned, flat stomachs while I’m devouring a Tim Horton’s donut; or flawless looking women with #hairgoals, trendy outfits and constant vacations in the world’s most glamorous locales, while I spend long days on campus catching up on assignments. It’s hard not to get #FOMO (fear of missing out) and feel like my life is boring in comparison.

Social media has a way of making us feel inadequate. Despite taking several vacations a year, enjoying my fair share of nice restaurants and being proud of my accomplishments thus far, I still feel pressure. The consistent bombardment of celebrities, supermodels and other influencers living large online takes its toll on their followers.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) identified a correlation between time spent on social media Instagram, in particular and how it may affect self-esteem levels, especially amongst younger generations.  The study included a survey of almost 1,500 young people across the United Kingdom between the ages of 14 to 24. They found that the participants were most likely to associate Instagram with negative attributes such as low self-esteem, poor body image and lack of sleep.

Instagram is followed by Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, respectively. The two biggest culprits are image-focused applications, which indicates a correlation between the images and the feelings of anxiety and inadequacy in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH. 

We’ve all been there you get an aesthetically-pleasing dish at a trendy restaurant and you want to capture a picture before taking the first bite or you’re catching up with an old friend, and you have to take a picture together to show that it happened. Social media is an incredible way to share special moments with family and friends, but it’s important to find that healthy balance in between. Keep your digital memory box full so you can always look back, but don’t forget to actually enjoy all those moments too, without any concern over getting a perfect photo “for the ‘gram.”

People are only trying to capture the happy times: vacations, special events, birthdays, graduations and so on. When you’re going through a hard time or working a long day, the last thing you want to do is take a picture. Truthfully, we’re only seeing everyone’s highlight reel while experiencing our own behind-the-scenes, and wondering why other people seem to have it so easy. So think about that the next time you see a picture of a perfect moment while you’re having a long, hard day at school or work. Everyone has those days. Your picture perfect moments are coming too.

 

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