Social Media, Ego, and Self-Esteem

December 11, 2021

From the time the first social media platforms became popular; many millennials have been using the internet to get noticed. This is not, by itself, a bad thing. Connecting to the world and having easy ways to find like-minded people is extremely convenient, especially when the world is hyper-polarized as it now is. The problem starts when it becomes a popularity contest, and is more about getting numbers and attention than actually connecting with people. This became popular with twitter and facebook, and when Generation Z entered the internet, there were far more apps and websites designed exclusively around the concept of getting more followers.

Even in smaller groups, a dangerous thing happens to our psyche when we start to see positive feedback that outweighs our effort, and start getting cheap praise. Subconsciously, we know the praise is cheap because we know we didn't do much, if anything, to earn it. This leads to a short term ego-boost, but a long term self-esteem drain. We feel emptier at the end of it, knowing we got attention without earning it. This has a negative effect on one's self-esteem, because it makes us focus far too much on how others see us, and simultaneously ties our value to something that isn't a real part of us, but rather how we present ourselves.

With this in mind, what should we do? To increase and maintain a healthy self-esteem, we must get away from the cheap attention and praise, the ego-boosting. Instead, we should take some time to look inward and realize our inherent value. A lot of this is done alone, but this process can certainly be aided by having a deep and meaningful conversation with a close friend. One who can point out some of your deeper characteristics (“you're patient, compassionate, creative,” etc). Find someone who knows you well enough that you know their praise is based on reality. A good litmus test is to talk to a friend who has told you things you don't want to hear, but things you know are true. Likewise, taking time to read the bible and connect with God can help. By humbling our ego, we can much more effectively raise our self-esteem and become confident in ourselves. Much like the apostle Paul learned, we are much stronger when we rely on God and his truth, than even the best we offer from the core of our true selves.

"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

It can be appealing to have a small group of people to talk to, who never say anything negative and always make you feel good. Think about it though, is that good feeling a lasting joy or more akin to the high you would get from drugs? We can save time and increase the authenticity of our own lives, by just talking to real friends instead. The wounds of a friend are out of love, and their praise has more depth than people in chat groups.

"All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."

1 Corinthians 10:23

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful."

Proverbs 27:6

God will use the best we have to offer from our inner-self, once we stop covering it up with vices like false friends and internet dopamine blasts to numb and avoid our inner problems. We are made valuable, but broken; and the world tries to push us and trap us in a far more broken state so we are ineffective to fulfill our life’s purpose. God wants us to return to him and yield our life up so he can heal us, and give us true joy.

A good rule of thumb for anything that requires time and attention is to do cost-benefit ratio check. “Is this worth my time and effort?” “What do I gain from doing this?” If you can’t adequately find a way something adds real value to your life, you may be better off just relaxing with a solo hobby like reading a book. And you’ll always be well served by giving time to God.

Further Reading

I would note that point 6 is based on the fallacy of equality, and when looking objectively and honestly, obviously some people are better at some things than other people. You wouldn’t want a mailman to do heart surgery. A better way of saying that point would be, certain skills don’t necessarily make a person more valuable than another person. It just makes them better at that skill or role in society.

Very short article which supplements and summarizes the key point of my article.