How Do Likes on the Internet Influence Users’ Self-esteem?

According to the data presented in the short statistical collection of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, 78% of the population of Russia use social networks. Virtual space of social networks gives an opportunity to present yourself the way you want it to be and manage this impression. The ability to control self-presentation and the creation of the ideal self-image on social networks generates a number of negative impacts. On how likes influence the self-esteem and what to do if social networks are a source of bad mood for you, we are talking with the Associate Professor of the Department of General Psychology, Psychodiagnostics, and Counselling and the Candidate of Sciences (Psychology) at SUSU Natalia Baturina.

– How is a person’s self-esteem formed and what influences it?

– A human being is a part of society, therefore, the attitude of others, assessment of actions, abilities and attractiveness is important to him/her, but at the same time it is also typical to compare himself/herself with other people. Assessment can be made from the position of better, worse or the same as everyone else. And, most of all, important and significant qualities for society in a specific historical period are assessed. For example, for a modern human being, things that are valuable are the financial well-being, success in a career and a happy personal life...In other words, self-esteem is based on socially significant values, without which it is impossible to understand and evaluate oneself as a successful person. A person’s self-evaluation can be either optimal (adequate) or suboptimal (inadequate). Adequate self-evaluation is understood as a person’s idea of oneself, which corresponds to the real state of things. It should be noted that such ideas can be both with positive and negative connotation. But this does not mean belittling or magnifying person’s abilities, but rather simply adequately assessing them. Inadequate self-evaluation can be either overestimation or underestimation. I think our readers understand what I am talking about, and that they have come across such people. But it is important to note here that people with inadequate self-esteem cannot build harmonious relations in society, creating discomfort and problems both for themselves and for those around them.

The formation of self-esteem is influenced by social and personal factors, as well as by the level of aspirations. The foundation for self-esteem is laid in childhood, where the role of adults is difficult to overestimate! Unfair punishments, emphasis on mistakes and failures, comparison with other children, or unfounded and too frequent praise lead to the formation of inadequate self-esteem. Of course, individual characteristics of a person, for example, his/her character, also influence the formation of self-esteem, but the vector is set by the social environment. It is namely social environment that can determine goals in the life of a person. The degree of complexity of the goal that a person sets for oneself is the level of one’s aspirations. The level of aspirations can be adequate and inadequate and it is formed under the influence of successes and failures and, in turn, influences the formation of self-esteem.

– Today, many young people spend their lives in social networks. If friends did not like a new post, then this would already be a reason for sadness, bad mood...Is this generally a normal reaction or an unhealthy one?

– The need for recognition, love, involvement is one of the basic needs of a person, and a like is a virtual analogue of satisfying this need. Hence such a powerful influence of likes on self-esteem and self-attitude of a person. After all, the I like button in its essence, expresses praise, compliment, a sign of respect and approval. For a user, in his/her psychological space, this means that this person has been noticed, is important and occupies special niche in space. By the way, it is important to note here that modern adolescents and young people tend to not to separate virtual and real life, and, therefore, a like on a social network for them is just as significant and valuable as live approval from other people. The number of likes is especially important for people with unstable self-esteem and those dependent on the opinions of others. Sometimes likes help to restore or raise self-esteem; this applies, most of all, to active users who tend to post almost every step they take. Of course, when there is a lack of real communication, support or self-confidence, then they can be replaced by life on a social network. This is not bad in itself, but it can become dangerous if the virtual space completely replaces the real one, and likes become the only psychological support. An overly active user, constantly observing other person’s beautiful life, compares oneself not in one’s favour, which can lead to self-doubt, anxiety and even depression. It is very important to understand here that when browsing other people’s pages we are looking at some beautiful picture, which may have nothing to do with reality. It will also be a mistake to consider a like as an indicator of attitude towards a person, and not towards his/her photo or post. We should remember that a like is an assessment of a specific product, and not of an individual!

– There are people who, not wanting to fall under the influence of social networks, simply ignore them, do not even register there. But there is also some useful content there too. Is it possible to be present on social networks and at the same time not ruin your psyche? What is the proper way to be in this space?

– Browsing social media feeds can be a pleasant and interesting entertainment, but can also cause envy, irritation, dejection if you compare yourself with others and not in your favour too. How can this be avoided? It is necessary to focus on your strong points, which allow to keep the self-esteem stable and resilient. Develop your own criteria of assessing yourself, compare yourself, first of all, with yourself and do not forget to praise yourself even for small successes. A person who is engaged in self-development and building of his/her life does not so painfully depend on the opinions (likes) of other people, and sometimes does not depend on them at all.


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