May 24, 2019 | 60° F

Measuring self-worth through social media

Digital Canvas

This generation has an unabashed love for attention, and with social media at its prime, it’s no surprise. Got a new job? Make a status on Facebook. Tried a new hairstyle? Post a picture on Instagram. Bought a cute pair of shoes? Tweet about them. Everything posted online is posted for people to see it and give feedback. We are addicted to this attention, and we crave having a powerful online presence. And are these signs of possible narcissism? Absolutely.

Social networks have made it is easy for us to mold online profiles into whatever we want them to look like. If you want your profile picture to be photoshopped, or if you want to say that you attend Harvard University when you’re really at a state college, the ­­­power is all yours.

The online community perceives you just by how you are presented to it. Society believes one’s level of popularity is directly proportional to the amount of online interactions they have — the “better” the image given to oneself on social media, the more these interactions will occur. Because of that aforementioned craving, people have began to base self-worth on the amount of "likes" or "retweets" they receive. We need the likes and comments like a fish needs water. We also compare our own lives to those of others solely based on what they post on Facebook or Instagram. It is more likely that you will be dissatisfied with your own life, if you see that others are living glamorously through their posts online. The more we become self-absorbed and self-obsessed, the more perfect our lives will look through the small window of reality that social media gives. Sure, you might be studying in the library with a friend, but if you post something funny about it on Twitter, studying won’t seem so mundane.

Today, women are the most active on social networks, meaning online narcissism could be said to be more prevalent in females. Pinterest is a perfect example. It is essentially a social book-marking site mainly used by women. Things you want to buy, places you want to go and even future wedding plans can be “pinned” to your virtual poster boards. Women seem to be the ones posting selfies and uploading picture of friends while males have a mysterious online presence.

This textbook narcissism may seem innocent at first glance. It was found that worldwide, one in four people use social media, so how bad could it really be if everyone is doing it? Well, we used to hear the same phrase when talking about drugs and alcohol in elementary school, and I think we all know the real answer. These harmless virtual habits can grow into something more than just creating a social image. The way we perceive ourselves and our self-worth can be negatively impacted. People with thousands of Instagram followers and hundreds of Facebook friends lose who they really are in cyberspace.

How we value ourselves in the era of social media has changed drastically. Of course this is not solely based on social networks, but it enables it. Over-valuing ourselves based on followers and likes, is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is wrong to merit yourself based on something as irrelevant as followers and likes.

Personally, I find myself doing this sometimes. Hitting triple digit likes on Instagram is a big deal to me. However, when we don’t get a lot of “likes” or attention, the opposite effect occurs. We value ourselves less because we do not think that others are valuing us. “Likes” are used as a tool of acceptance. People are more likely to take a photo down or delete a tweet if it lacks the attention that it was seeking when posted. Hence, why the possibility to buy likes and followers is available to us. We have become so desperate to get noticed for all of the wrong reasons. I am, of course, a huge proponent of social media, but I think that people need to learn to use it with the best intentions in mind. It is a form of self-expression, not public evaluation. 

Epatia Lilikas is a sophomore in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in English and economics. Her column "Digital Canvas," runs on alternate Fridays. 

Epatia Lilikas

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