The downside to social media

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April 27, 2017

Meet Hailey Devine: She’s a popular blogger, videographer, and role model who lives in the Salt Lake area. She has over 58 thousand followers on Instagram and thousands of followers on her blog. Each of her Instagram posts receives thousands of likes, and fans and friends sprinkle her blog posts with adoring comments. However, despite her online popularity, Devine still feels vulnerable when she posts content online for her followers to see.

Devine is just one of the many social media users that struggles with the negative effects of social media. According to The Guardian, there were 1.23 million Facebook users in 2014. The Instagram website states that are currently 200 million Instagram users, and the Twitter company page claims 284 million active Twitter users. Beyond the most popular social media platforms, there are millions and millions of bloggers. With the rise of social media use in today’s society, there has also been a rise in cases of anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues. Although increased social media use may not be the only factor affecting anxiety and depression levels in America, studies show that it certainly plays a part in the increase.

The University of Michigan conducted a study in 2013 to see how Facebook affected its users’ happiness levels. The study found that, overall, those who reported a high Facebook usage also reported lower feelings of happiness. Studies have also found that Facebook not only makes users feel less happy, it can also invoke feelings of envy and alienation. An article published by The Crimson White, explains that these negative feelings come from users comparing themselves with their friends. They see what everyone is doing through posts on sites like Instagram and Twitter, and may be “more likely to experience anxiety or worry about their own self-worth based on what others are doing on social media.”

Jack Johansson, a BYU alumnus and former news producer for ABC channel 7, has seen the negative effects of social media on himself and those around him.

“Watching other people on social media is like watching the highlights of a game on Sports Center. You only see the highlights of their lives,” Johansson said. “No wonder it makes you feel like crap. It makes their lives seem more exciting than yours.”

Elise Teerlink, a BYU graduate student, opened up about her negative experiences with social media when she explained how it makes her feel inadequate.

“Posts on social media usually include things that people have had time to    . . . [edit and revise]. Yet, it is so easy to forget that, and not see the difference between real life and the ‘perfected life’ that social media allows us to portray,” Teerlink said.

Nikki Tay, one of the co-founders of Bona Fide, a company aiming to increase positivity and genuineness on social media, opened up about her personal struggle with social media. Each day, she would spend a couple of hours online, scrolling through the pretty pictures posted by her friends and their friends and even people she didn’t actually know.

“I would get down on myself if my life did not look as fun [or] pretty as their lives. I pictured how I could make my life look as great as all my fun social media ‘friends,’” Tay said. “I realized something had to change. After launching Bona Fide, I can honestly say I have made a conscious effort to be present and just enjoy the moment, rather than trying to capture the perfect pictures that I have envisioned in my head.”

Having struggles is real life. Those struggles have molded us to the people we are today.-- Bona Fide

This social media stigma of needing to reach perfection affects many people throughout the world, and BYU students are not exempt. Many students at BYU struggle with the pressures and negative affects of social media. Emily Jones, a recently married sophomore studying graphic design, says that one of the most negative aspects of social media for her is that it causes her to compare herself with others.

“I now look at married people’s posts in a new light. It seems as if their lives are absolutely perfect, and that they are living in complete marital bliss with no problems. Then it makes me compare myself to theirs and feel inferior to them,” Jones said. “I know people tend to post the positive aspects of their lives on Facebook so it seems like their life is perfect, but it sure is hard to remember that everyday.”

Teerlink said that her social media use causes her to compare herself to others instead of actively participating in her own life.

“Social media creates the perfect trigger for me to feel depressed and anxious. When I am on social media, I am sitting around, spectating other people’s lives instead of participating in my own. I am comparing myself to what seems like perfection,” Teerlink said.

Crystal Hill, a BYU alumna, loves the aspect of social media that allows her to connect with long-distance friends, but she has noticed that she often compares herself to the other moms on the web, and then she begins to feel like she isn’t good enough.

Erin Goodman, another BYU alumna, says social media gives her anxiety because she often feels inadequate after scrolling through her newsfeeds. She sees pictures of women with perfect bodies, friends posting about their productive days, and moms snapping pictures with their kids at various fun locations, and she begins to compare herself.

“Overall, [social media] affects me positively, but when I let my guard down, it’s easy for me to feel stressed and depressed about my own life,” Goodman said.

When asked what advice she would give anyone who may be struggling with these negative feelings due to social media usage, Devine said, “Comparison is the thief of joy. If you’re not finding joy out of social media, then be done with it. Or choose to take a break from it. I struggle with it from time to time. . . . I think the best realization is that these people you’re comparing yourself to are far from perfect, they are just choosing to share the small victories of their [lives].”

After Devine noticed that both she and her friends were constantly criticizing themselves, she decided to create a new campaign called “#benicetoyourselfie” to inspire her followers to remember to love themselves instead of constantly comparing their weaknesses to other people’s strengths. Devine isn’t the only blogger out there aiming to make a change and increase positivity on social media.

Bona Fide, a company based out of Dallas, Texas, was started by two friends who felt that social media was often used as a façade. They decided that they wanted to start a community that showed the real, genuine side of life instead of the one painted on for online acceptance. Bona Fide’s mission is to provide an outlet where people don’t have to be afraid to be real.

“The social media world is all about painting that perfect picture. Perfect kids, perfect vacations, perfect makeup, perfect body, and so on. Nowadays, with technology at our fingertips we are all striving to portray that flawless image of how we want others to view us. This is not real life. Having struggles is real life. Those struggles have molded us to the people we are today,” the Bona Fide website said.

Social media is a tool that allows users to connect with friends and colleagues, create and post content, and share ideas; however, it also can also invoke feelings of anxiety, depression, envy, and unhappiness. Despite the negative aspects of online accounts, the founders at Bona Fide believe that the key to finding the good in social media is by remembering that everyone has struggles and insecurities, but it is important to embrace the idiosyncrasies that make each individual unique.

Courtney Johansson is Texas-raised and Utah-livin’. She hopes to become an editor at a publishing company after she graduates in August with a degree in journalism and a minor in editing. She loves lemonade, her handsome husband, thunderstorms, and any movie starring Tom Hanks.

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