Pixelated Perception

With the rise of social media users and promotion comes the rise of mental health issues awareness.

Millions of pictures on Instagram emulate an image of “perfection.”

Size zero models pos next to a broadly sculpted man as their sun-kissed skin glows at the sunny Bahamas. Unfortunately, lots of users often try to compare themselves to these heavily edited figures on their phones.

As more and more people join social media networks, new issues of self-esteem emerge.

Self-esteem is defined as an individual’s perception of their own worth, which is influenced by interactions in the outside world, and, with today’s easy access to technology, the internet.

Starting as early as age eight in girls and ten in boys, a lack of self-esteem prevalent amidst the barrage of hormones, emotions and confusion as adolescents, who want to be accepted and fit in with social norms, begin comparing themselves to others.

New social media trends for weight loss, beauty tips and social status contribute to this lack of self-esteem as teens compare themselves to an idealized image.

Pacsun, Hollister, Forever21 and many other companies often photoshop their models to make them appear flawless—free of stretch marks, discoloration and cellulite.

Individuals are tempted to view themselves as “lacking,” losing confidence while striving to achieve this “perfect” aesthetic and worsening their self-esteem.

Despite these misrepresentations in advertisements, some teenagers are coming to realize the distinction between celebrities and their ordinary selves, acknowledging that their lifestyles differ. Teens are beginning to use celebrities’ actions as a moral compass to help keep their own actions in check.

But much of social media inadvertently promotes teen comparison to other teens through online apps.

In a 2017 study conducted by Pew Research Center, the top three apps used by teens were Snapchat (79 percent), Facebook (76 percent) and Instagram (73 percent). 

Platforms like these promote sharing photos and videos of individuals in everyday life which emphasizing the fun and exciting.  

“I use technology every day from when I get home and go to sleep,” said Darion Calderon, a junior at Van Nuys. “When you are on for so long and exposed to other people that have higher self-esteem than yourself, it can be harmful because you envy that quality about them.”

Something harmless as viewing photos and videos online has turned awry through what psychologists call misguided pursuits.

Teens seeking friends, fame or the “ideal life” will actively search for individuals who display their vision of perfection.

These individuals differ from the typical celebrity in that their lifestyles are more relatable and attainable to the “average person,” yet is still far away— enough to elicit envy and adoration.

Some types of social media influencers make a living by showing off their bodies and lifestyles and branding it towards their audiences, such as Instagram model Alex Lange, Youtuber Desi Perkins, and fitness promoter Kayla Itsines.

YouTubers can also influence the way their followers think. Individual branding such as Jake Paul, David Dobrik and Nash Grier promote extravagantly expensive tastes and risk-taking lifestyles that their teen audiences can’t compete with.

“I used to follow a lot of beauty accounts,” said an anonymous junior. “Over time, I felt self-conscious because I didn’t look like them and I didn’t feel so beautiful, even though now I know it was just for that moment.”

A majority of teens fail to realize that the “perfect” lives they see on social media posts are an inaccurate representation of an individual’s life.

The quote for this generation is ‘Compare and Despair,’ essentiality that people are only posting their best and sometimes their most fabricated moments to boost their self-esteem and lower others. It’s not only the intensity and the amount of images being put out there, but also the lack of knowledge students have of how much they’re comparing their life to others and feeling a decrease in self-esteem because of it.

— Mr. Aaron Stell, English Teacher

This “Compare and Despair” phenomena can lead to depression and other mental health issues.

Senior Michelle Omisore describes the effect of social media on low self-esteem and mental health in her Medical Magnet Research Paper.

“Because of the altered reality social sites offer, they cause changes in a person’s mental health and well being, which goes hand-in-hand with a lowered self-esteem. Low self-esteem is a severe mental health disorder that can lead to depression and diminish the amount of confidence one has in themselves, which is a problem not to be taken lightly.”

Low self-esteem becomes the arbiter of many other underlying issues. A study from the University of Pittsburgh found a correlation between time spent on social media sites and a negative body image. Those who had spent more time on social media has the risk of reporting eating and body image concerns, an increase by a factor of 2.2 compared to those spending less time online.  

Results from another study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine also linked social media to depression, finding that the more time young adults spend on social media, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression.

The amount of time spent on social media is ever-growing. In a 2015 research case study by the Pew Research Center, data analysts found that 67 percent of average Americans use social media, a 60 percent increase from 2005. Along with this increase, 90 percent of young adults in the U.S alone are active users in social media— an 85 percent increase since 2005.

“I went on a social media cleanse because it stressed me out so much by seeing how everyone else was doing in their lives and reflecting it onto mine,” said junior Zoe Rodriguez. “It really affected my mental health to the point where I decided not to use it anymore and I think more people should be aware.”

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