Why do you use social media?
Is social media only a place to connect with friends from the past, promote our new brands, or go on political rants? Do we use it to determine our self-worth, too?
Have you ever caught yourself allowing Facebook or Instagram to be your source of fulfillment when you needed a little self-love? Sure social media can be a fun thing, but whether or not you can experience it as a place of enjoyment depends on your Sense of Self.
According to the latest research, Instagram is not doing anything good for young women’s brains.
Healthy minds lead to high self-worth and self-esteem, right? Unfortunately, social media brings the mental health bar way down due to constant comparison, competition, and addiction to approval.
Nicole Fisher, founder and President of Health & Human Rights Strategies and an expert on health innovation, technology, and brain health writes about the brain on social media in her recent article in Forbes magazine.
Keep reading to learn the facts Fisher reported in her article, Neuroscience Explains Why Instagram Is so Bad for Teen Girls.
Thanks to ongoing brain development and increased sensitivity to dopamine (a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, pleasure, and reward), teenagers are more likely to crave reward-based experiences. And, because their prefrontal cortex (the area associated with understanding, evaluation, and decision-making) is still developing, social interactions greatly shape impulse control and critical thinking.
In the past, we often thought of these as risk-taking behaviors like driving fast or attempts at fitting in to get approval from peers. But in the age of smartphones, social media, followers, and likes, reward-seeking behaviors in teens is increasingly associated with approval online.
Bottomless scrolling, tagging, notifications, and live stories tap into the fear of missing out (FOMO), which brings us a bunch of anxiety and low self-worth.
As of 2018, Instagram has more than 1 billion users worldwide, and more than half (over 500 million) are daily users. Of those, about 60% are females under the age of 34. This is not coincidental. In fact, the software has been engineered to keep them engaged longer and coming back for more.
Here are some facts you should probably know about what social media – Instagram in particular – is doing to young women’s brains.
- Compared to Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, it appears that Instagram leads to more comparisons between ourselves and others. This, in turn, contributes to more anxiety and depression due to feelings of inadequacy. Research suggests this is due to increased exposure to “idealized” images of other women, couples, and lives in general. Increased exposure is linked to decreased happiness with one’s own life.
- Functional MRIs have shown that how many likes (which are often fake, purchased or manufactured) an Instagram post has alters the appeal of that photo to viewers. For example, when girls see a highly rated image, their brain (most likely the nucleus accumbens, or reward circuit) instinctively associate it with being better, no matter the content. Their brains literally can’t help but prefer images that have more likes than images with fewer likes. As researchers at UCLA put it, teens react to what they consider “endorsements” of content.
- Thanks to access to smartphones, 92% of teens say that they go online every single day. Of those, 24% admit to being online “almost constantly.” And, according to a Pew Research Center study, the usage is fairly equal amongst races and cultures. However, it was concluded that African American girls use smartphones more than their white and Hispanic peers (85% compared to 71%). But all that time online shifts how young women view social approval and what it takes to be “liked.”
- Visual sites like Instagram attract girls more than boys, who seem to prefer video games and gaming to social media. But what that introduces is a very different engagement with imagery. For example, filters, makeup, lighting, angles, and posing mean that the images consistently fed to young girls are not based in reality. But unlike a video game where the user knows the images are fake, Instagram posts blur reality and fiction.
- Influencers on Instagram have been known to get paid up to $1 million a post. And the average American girl spends 6-10 hours a day on social media being pushed products and images that are not proven to work or are not real. But in many cases, they do not know what is fake or what is promotional advertising. And at a young age, the ability to differentiate is near impossible. In fact, a Stanford study concluded that young people don’t know when they’re being exposed to fake information on social platforms or how to differentiate credibility.
Whether you’re a parent or a young person wanting to spend less time on your smartphone, there are plenty of reasons to decrease the use of social media. But it’s also important to understand that many of the negative implications of using social media, like loneliness and anxiety, are a direct result of brain development. (SOURCE)
We live in a new world, and we’re all learning as we go. We just have to work harder to learn which feedback loops are giving us information, and the quality and credibility of that information.
The need to compare yourself with your peers may indicate a lack of self-worth and appreciation for your true, authentic Self.
The Similarities We Share
Most of us are born with a similar type of human body. We all have a neck attached to our head and shoulders which are placed on our torso . . . with arms and legs. Our hands and feet have 10 appendages that let us handle things and help us keep our balance.
Now those are the similarities. Let’s talk about the differences too. Our bodies can potentially be very different from other people’s bodies . . . some of us need to eat a lot, others do not have that urge; some people sweat, or have greasy hair, while others always seem cool and collected.
Some of us have enough money to buy clothes whenever we want to; others use thrift stores to get their necessities and fend off the weather. Some have all the choices in the world at their disposal but are terrified to pick the wrong one.
They think less of themselves because they ought to be happy, and wonder why they’re not. Others have to work hard in a low-paying job or take care of their relatives who are ill or disabled. They don’t even have the time to think about themselves or their level of self-worth.
Self-worth and the battle to feel good about yourself.
So, we all have similarities and differences, but most importantly, we have a Self. And we owe it to ourselves to sense and respect that Self.
The desire to feel good about yourself is healthy up to a point, but be aware: you should be able to do without it. If your “Feel-good” depends on the number of likes or retweets you get, you are missing that basic, healthy feel-good that should always be living inside you.
Happiness is being content with what life brings . . . and that includes the body that was given to you and appreciate that it allows you to live in this world.
Ask yourself: Where was I before I was born? Where do I go when I die?
We can guess, but we truly have no idea, right? We don’t know anything about the beginning of our lives, nor do we know anything about the end. How can we be so sure we know what is best for our journey in between those two points?
Asking ourselves questions like Why does she have the perfect body and I am trapped in this box of problems? Why is he so short and I am so tall? are irrelevant. Why would you worry about what others think of you? It is what it is: YOU are YOU and he is he and she is she.
Is your self-worth based on what do others think of you?
The “others” are Facebook friends or Instagram followers. But are they really friends? Do we even remember what real friends are?
The people who go through thick and thin with you and who are there not only to hear your success stories but also your complaints. They care about you because of who you are (maybe also a little because they happened to be around when you needed somebody to share your joys or sorrow).
Likes are a type of currency, issued by a commercial establishment.
People can drive each other crazy and influence each other on social media platforms. It must be incredibly difficult to remain true to your Self when all your friends do fun, cute, cool, crazy things on Facebook and you don’t.
What do you do with it? Think of something to impress them . . . or remain your Self? Do you allow others to judge you based on your online presence?
You only live once – make sure that you’re living your life how you want!
If you really want to keep this image in mind, take a moment right now to take an imaginary selfie of yourself feeling well-balanced, happy, radiating self-confidence and self-worth.
Now evoke that image whenever you need to stay connected to the truth; your true, healthy sense of Self.
We’d love to hear from you!
Please leave your comments in the space below. And if you’re ready to assess the state of your self-worth and entire Sense of Self, take our Healthy Sense of Self Quiz.