The superficial nature of social media has been called into question many times. Social media platforms, such as Instagram, portray people in a way that may not be real since there are options to edit in order to achieve “perfection.” This can affect the self-esteem of social media users and lead to more serious mental health problems. While I think social media can be beneficial and fun, I believe that it loses its attraction when people obsess over it.

Essena O’Neill, a popular social media icon, revealed how she was paid by different companies to advertise their products through her Instagram account. In some pictures, she may look like a happy, beautiful girl, but she’s actually lost her identity due to her obsession with perfecting her appearance on social media. The problem of perfecting oneself online is growing and it’s only going to get worse if people don’t limit their exposure to social media.

Social media allows for you to share yourself with others, not create a misconstrued version of yourself like O’Neill did. By editing captions on her Instagram pictures, O’Neill revealed how she would become obsessed with looking thin in her pictures which made her starve herself beforehand. She would put on a fake smile and tons of makeup to create a new identity. O’Neill damaged her self-esteem in this process.

According to a study by Glamour magazine, 64 percent of women said that looking at pictures of women online made them feel worse about their bodies. Women compare themselves with the perfected images seen on Instagram and Facebook, and, as a result, some women develop eating disorders or self-harm. In order to avoid this, women need to be reminded of their own unique beauty and cannot compare themselves to others.

Sophomore Victoria Marek said, “[Social media] affects people’s self-esteem because it looks like everyone’s having fun.” The unflinching need to compare can make people feel lonely and encourage negative thoughts. This happens most often with the obsessions of getting the most “likes” on a picture.

“Your popularity is based off of how many likes you have,” said Marissa Tedeschi ‘18. If the amount of likes does not meet the standard set by the person, it will negatively affect their self-esteem. After I post a picture on Instagram, I continuously check the amount of likes I’m receiving. If I don’t receive a minimum number of likes, I’m not content. When my friends post pictures, they’ll often text me in advance to like their picture instead of waiting for me to come across it on my own. This shows how our generation conflates the idea of likes with acceptance.

In regards to O’Neill’s case, I think her obsession went too far. Young women like O’Neill may be influenced by the money they get paid for promoting products via social media. However, this can be damaging to young women’s identities because instead of posting what they want, they post whatever gets monetarily compensated.

When social media affects your emotional health, it’s time to quit. If you become upset because you don’t receive the number of likes you wanted or feel the need to starve yourself to look thinner in an Instagram post, then that’s problematic. Otherwise, social media can be a fun and beneficial experience when used responsibly. There’s nothing wrong with people post edited pictures of themselves. Go ahead and post that picture of you at Lantern Point at the last “darty” and edit it; just remember that perfection is not the goal for pictures. Pictures are meant to record memories, not remind people what they don’t like about themselves. By focusing on the act of capturing memorable moments rather than the criticism with which we look at pictures, we can decrease negative thoughts on our body image.

Don’t let social media define you; you define it. Losing yourself online is not the way to live your life. Instead, use social media to share memories with friends and connect with people who share the same interests as you. The online world has given people access to others around the world which can serve as a great learning experience. We shouldn’t obsess over our popularity on social media, but rather on the meaningful experiences we can have through it.

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