The title of the article “Facebook envy: how the social network affects our self-esteem” speaks for itself: the author Andrea Shea reflects on the impact that the social media has on its users, and in particular on the ways people feel about themselves and about the others. The article includes results of the scientific researches as well as the real-life experiences of those who are engaged in social networks, for example, in Facebook. The main message of the article is that the effect of Facebook on people’s life can be ambiguous: it can cause negative thoughts and reactions, for example, envy, but at the same time it provides the users with more ways to express themselves and boosts their creativity.
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The main problem with the Facebook is that it presents the distorted version of reality. For example, most photographs that people put on social networks were previously airbrushed. Another illustration is that people tend to expose aspects of their lives that can be perceived as glamorous and photogenic (pictures of parties, festivals, concerts), while concealing others, such as routine everyday activities. When Facebook users constantly omit the facts of their life that contradict the perfect image they have created, it prevents them from forming genuine bonds with other people, and it “forecloses intimacy”. Facebook users create enhanced versions of their lives, which can lead to the unhealthy situation of constant measuring up to others, to other people’s lives and standards, especially among vulnerable teenagers.
This competition may results in negative thoughts, low self-esteem, and even depression: “The studies showed that one in three respondents felt more dissatisfied with their own lives after spending time on the site. Viewing the number of birthday greetings and “likes” were big culprits. Unprecedented access to other people’s photos also triggered emotional pain and resentment” (Shea par.6). While the social networks are the telling illustration of how people construct their identity, this phenomena is not limited to the virtual aspect of our lives, as we do this in the real world too. In everyday life each time people decide what to wear and how to look, they engage in practices of self-presentation: “It’s an agreed upon human behavior that we all present ourselves, and cover up and cultivate these images and personas” (Shea par.27). Social networks simply provide people with more means for the process of cultivating postures.
It is important to admit and to further explore the ambivalent effect of the social media on people’s perception of themselves. On the one hand, social networks like Facebook can create a challenging atmosphere of competition between its users, compelling people to compare themselves to others all the time, which inevitably leads to feeling of self-dissatisfaction and low self-esteem. The resentment, envy, and other negative feelings that the use of social media evokes may alienate people from each other. In order to avoid the negative impact of social media on person’s self-perception, it is necessary to understand that what people portray on Facebook is not always an adequate reflection of the reality. On the other hand, the social media can be beneficial for the users as they create opportunities for self-presentation and construction of one’s image that were unknown to previous generations. It is in human nature to present ourselves to others, and social networks, Facebook, in particular, provides people with more opportunities for creative self-expression.
Shea, Andrea. Facebook Envy: How the Social Network Affects Our Self-Esteem. 2013. Web.