Monday, September 30, 2013

Social Esteem

Social Esteem

Today's world is full of immediate gratification. From just our smartphones alone, we can submit work reports, download recipes, upload photos to thousands of people, pay bills, RSVP to a party, book a vacation, and more, with just a few clicks of a button, from virtually anywhere within a few minutes.  This ability to conquer our "To Do" list in rapid-fire fashion can make us feel accomplished, but how can this feeling of accomplishment play out?

For some of us, feeling accomplished can result in us acting impatiently or entitled.  We expect things to happen in our timeframe and when they don't, look out!  We might act demanding and rude toward others because we don't want to wait and because we don't feel we should have to.  While for others, feeling powerless due to delayed gratification can manifest as a more serious problem. It can affect our self esteem and as a result, we can become depressed.  

Social media websites allow us to share with the world (yes, the world as privacy no longer exists thanks to the internet), our thoughts and feelings, our whereabouts, our activities, our political beliefs and the company we keep, all through our tweets, status updates and photos albums.  For some, social media websites are an occasional past-time allowing us to connect with friends and family in far away places and with folks from years past.  While for others, posting on social media websites is a more chronic condition in which some people journal the day to day activities of their lives to their friends and followers.

In my private practice (and in my personal life), I often hear stories about relationship issues. Increasingly, these issues often have social media as a common theme.  When social media affects self esteem, I refer to it as, Social Esteem.  Social Esteem becomes the intersection at which self esteem is influenced and reinforced by social media activity and the perceptions associated with it.

When you post a status update, a photo, or an article on a social media site, what is your intention?  Are you simply trying to share something that is important to you or does it mean something more?  What does it mean to you when someone "likes" something you've posted?  Does it mean that they agree with what you've said?  Does it mean that they "like" you?  Does it mean that they approve of you?  Do you feel validated?  Do you view it as a popularity contest?  Conversely, what does it mean to you when you post something and it doesn't receive the fanfare that you hoped for?  Do you start to reevaluate your relationships?  Do you feel rejected?  Do you act in a passive-aggressive manner by posting provocative messages or by failing to acknowledge the posts of others?  Does it affect your mood and the way you see yourself?

In order to enjoy the benefits that technology has to offer without falling prey to the pitfalls of our I want It Now society, it's important to take a step back from time to time and reevaluate our priorities and objectives.

Ways to address Social Esteem:

  • Adjust your expectations.  It's important to recognize that people have different views on the frequency and etiquette of social media websites, email and text messaging. 
  • Adjust your perspective.  People are overloaded with information at their fingertips and inundated with responsibilities.  Just because a friend didn't "like" your latest status update or leave a comment, doesn't mean that they stopped caring for you. 
  • Adjust your approach. If you have important news to share (e.g. new job, birth announcement, engagement, etc.), then tell the people who are important to you in person or over the telephone instead of having them read it in their News Feed.  Model the respect that you'd like to receive.

I hope you find this blog helpful.  Please feel free to leave a comment or message me with any feedback you may have.

Warm regards,

Lisa Matus, LCSW

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