Burning Question: Is social media ruining our self-esteem?
The world’s selfie obsession has tipped over into scary territory, with celebs and plebs living for the ‘likes’... with sometimes frightening results!
Whether you’re living in 90210 or in the middle of Australia, for many of us, social media – be it Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter – is the very first thing we check in the morning, and the last thing we look at before nodding off at night, often mid-scroll. True story.
“It’s what I woke up to and went to sleep to. I was an addict,” Selena Gomez, 25, who’s the most followed person on Insty with 130 million devotees, once said.
But our obsession with social media is proving a double-edged sword, with the negative stuff bringing us crashing down just as quickly as any wave of ‘likes’ boosts our egos.
“It felt like I was seeing things I didn’t want to see, like it was putting things in my head that I didn’t want to care about,” admits Sel. “I always end up feeling like s**t when I look at Instagram. My self-esteem was shot.” And she’s not alone… Our addiction to double-tapping and relentlessly posting selfies that (hopefully) see the likes rolling in has now headed into dangerous territory.
In fact, many people are going as far as altering their appearances with plastic surgery in a desperate – and worrying – attempt to translate “digital attractiveness” into real life.
A recent study conducted by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that 42% of facial plastic surgeons now have patients requesting surgery just to look better on social media.
“Patients come to the office and remark that they ‘didn’t realise’ that this aspect of their face or nose looked that way until they saw certain angles on one of the social media posts,” says plastic surgeon Dr Fred G. Fedok.
“Now that they see it, they want it corrected. I believe they want to correct the flaw to look ‘better’ for themselves and also for how they look in photos.”
Posting a selfie is hard because there’s a lot of pressure. It has to be perfect... There’s an image that I constantly feel pressured to keep up with
I always end up feeling like s**t when I look at Instagram... My self-esteem was shot
‘SELFIES... FUEL [OUR] OBSESSION WITH FLAWS’
So Some doctors have ha even coin coined the phrase “selfie dys dysmorphia” to describe the phenomenon. “A “Apps offer things like flawless fla skin, then people wa want to recreate that in real life,” lif says Uk-based cosmetic surgeon su Dr Munir Somji. “It’s also becoming common comm to use filters to recreate recre the effect of contouring, without ith make-up. But some patients have problems with body dysmorphia, and will never be happy with themselves. I’ve advised some patients that surgery isn’t necessary and they should stop taking selfies, as it fuels their obsession with their ‘flaws’,” adds Dr Somji.
Unable to face reality
Mother-of-three Lucy O’grady, 42, admits she turned to surgery in order to look more like her digitallyenhanced selfies. “I struggle with self-confidence and editing apps made me feel better about my looks,” she says. “I wanted to permanently emulate the effect of the apps.”
Understandably, many high-profile stars also feel they have to be picture-perfect on social media.
“Posting a selfie is hard because there’s a lot of pressure. It just has to be perfect,” admits Kylie Jenner, 20, who has 99.3 million followers – and counting! – on Insty!
“There’s an image I feel constantly pressured to keep up with… In order to stay relevant for the public, I have to be on Instagram and Snapchat.”
“People don’t understand the pressure on me to look perfect,” agrees her big sister Kim Kardashian, 37, who freely admits to contouring specifically to impress her whopping 104 million followers.
“When you’ve done it really well it definitely helps your selfie,” she adds.
Made In Chelsea star Stephanie Pratt, 31, also resorts to retouching her pics before posting them – and sees no problem with doing so.
“I kind of twirl around until the light is right! If I have a spot on my face I won’t hesitate to smooth it out with the Facetune app,” she says.
But not all celebrities are willing to bow to social media’s strange standards. “I think it’s crazy,” says actress Sophia Bush, 35. And she’s not the only one who’s recognised there’s too much importance being placed on scoring like after like after like! “It definitely does something to the soul. There are times when I feel depressed or anxious and a big part of it comes from [social media],” says Hailey Baldwin, who turns 21 this week. “If we didn’t have social media, we’d have a weight lifted off our shoulders. It does affect you. People tell me I’m ugly, fat. I try not to care, but... everyone wants to see what people are saying about them.” Orange County-based media psychologist Dr Pamela Rutledge says this is exactly where online sharing can potentially be destructive.
“We are hard-wired to be social. We want other people to like us, so we care if we get likes and clicks. That is normal, so people shouldn’t beat themselves up over caring about that,” Dr Rutledge tells NW.
“But they should be aware of the fact that paying too much attention to that is giving away their own power. If you’re allowing whether you get a lot of likes to define how you feel that day, then it’s time to back off.”
Time for a time-out
In fact, some stars are so fed up with trying to keep up their perfect illusions that they’ve stepped away and taken a social media sabbatical.
“I just wanted to detox,” Kendall Jenner, 22, said of her decision to pull the pin – albeit temporarily – last November. “I felt a little too dependent on it.”
In February 2015, Iggy Azalea, 27, quit Twitter after copping flak online for some unflattering bikini pics.
“Just got back from a great vacation, came online and saw apparently it’s shocking and unheard of to be a woman and have cellulite,” she tweeted.
Meanwhile, Demi Lovato, 25, announced she was quitting Twitter and Instagram in June 2016 so she didn’t “have to see what some of y’all say.”
Eventually though, Kenny, Iggy and Demi all came rushing back – the lure and appeal of social media and its audience of admirers too great to ignore.
But some smart celebs have steered clear of social media altogether (see box, top right).
“[Social media] has a huge impact on young womens’ self-esteem, because all they ever do is design themselves for people to like them,” says Kate Winslet. “And what comes along with that? Eating disorders. And that makes my blood boil and is the reason we don’t have any social media in our house.”
A distorted view
Experts agree celebrities like Kate, 42, are the smart ones.
“Adults using Instagram are more likely to have low self- esteem and feel pressure to look good in photos,’’ says Australian Psychological Society spokeswoman Dr Lyn O’grady.
But why? “People tend to put their best foot forward on social media, so we see others’ best moments and end up measuring all of who we are against a small sliver of the best of who other people are. That can wear hard on our self-esteem, because our whole lives will never look as good as somebody else’s best life, of course,” Canada-based marriage and family therapist Carolyn Klassen tells NW.
“We get this distorted view of how other people are living their lives. We measure our insides against other people’s outsides,” adds Carolyn. “People edit what they put forward on social media, and we live unedited lives, so that’s a challenge...”
But if you’re not willing to put a stop to online sharing all together, experts recommend it isn’t healthy to spend more than two hours a day on social media as excessive use will only add to feelings of social isolation.
Even Kimmy K isn’t so intense when it comes to keeping up on Insty these days. “It’s not what consumes me anymore,” she says, “like how it used to”.
Well, if Kim can cut back... n