We all have our daily morning routine where we might take a shower, brush our teeth, do our hair and then we look at ourselves in the mirror. We look at ourselves for what we are, or at least what we think we are. We all look at ourselves in our own light, every person in the world has an image of themselves when they look in that mirror. We all have these improvements or changes we want to make to ourselves, whether we want to admit it or not. Dove has that great video of how we feel we come across and appear to others, showing that we rarely ever see ourselves in the way others might whether it is on social networking sites or in real life.
The idea of our self concept in real life or in social networking is an important one. With social networking becoming such a major role in our lives it is becoming a factor in our self concept. Facebook has taken over a small portion of the world with 1.11 billion active monthly users since March 2013. It is used for communication for friends, family, and romantic relationships so it clearly plays an important part in our interpersonal relationships and how we see ourselves amongst others.
So who are we?
There is a lot that comes in to play when we look at our own self-concept. Julia Wood discusses in Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters how our self-concept is based on our view of ourselves through our interactions with others and the perspectives they have of us. We take these perspectives and they form this idea of who we are and how we see ourselves. For example, as we grow up our parents and others may directly define us as a very good athlete or as a very smart person and this begins to mold how we look at ourselves.
Are we too harsh on ourselves?
We all have a self concept and it is not only developed through direct definition from others but also the people who are important in our lives. In the book Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounter Julia Wood talks about how the development and foundations of our own self concept come as a result of the affect of particular others, who are people that are important in our lives. How we interact with these particular others shape us, whether they are members of our family, friends or even romantic partners. They are important figures in our lives and we value their opinions and this affects our perspectives of ourselves.
The study Relationship between Self-Concept and Depressive Tendencies among Adolescents at Matriculation Level was conducted by Ayesha Khan, Aijaz Gujjar, Fatima Jaffrey, and Naeemullah Bajwa and their results showed that there was a link between a negative self-concept and high rates of depressive tendencies in the people studied. They claim that “Adolescents with negative self-concepts are more likely to develop depressive tendencies such as depression and a disruptive behavior that affects not only their physical and mental health but also hamper their classroom or academic achievements.”
Now the media is a large influence on negative self concepts especially in adolescents of a college level and we shouldn’t be criticizing ourselves on a scale that compares us to celebrities, who lets face it, have some off days too anyway. It’s just that the media is such a large factor in the self-concept of individuals in today’s society and that can have some very negative effects on how we see ourselves. This happens as we assess ourselves in relation to others in order to form judgements of our own talents or qualities, which Julia Wood explains as self comparison . For example, have you ever looked at a movie star and thought “Wow, they are incredible. I wish I had their body.” Im sure you have maybe not for their body but maybe for their hair, or eyes or a quality of theirs that you admire. This is social comparison in the act, we look at one another and see how we match up in comparison and this is one of the factors that can lead to depressive tendencies because it can make us feel inferior against the likes of Ryan Gosling or Mila Kunis for example.
So what does that mean? It can’t all be the fault of the media..
And it isn’t, our self-concept doesn’t allow us to think “well that’s Ryan Gosling or Mila Kunis and they’re celebrities” we still try and compare ourself to see how we match up and it still knocks our self esteem if we feel we haven’t faired very well in that comparison. Which is what brings me to the next area in which our ‘self’ can be affected and lead to depressive tendencies, this time it involves relationships over social networking.
As mentioned before, self comparison and particular others have an influence on our self concept and when it comes to romantic relationships, Facebook can involve both. This mixture of social networking, self comparison, and particular others can have a negative affect on relationships. An article from the Huffington Post discusses how jealousy can creep in to a relationship over Facebook. In a romantic relationship online interactions can be harmful, for example if the ex of your current partner likes a picture or writes on their wall our minds can jump straight to the negative and wonder what is going on. Feeling under valued from our particular other over a ‘what if’ situation and a misunderstanding is bad for both sides. This jealousy and curiosity is something that is all too easy to take place over Facebook, and that isn’t the end of it.
Social Comparison within Social Networking.
Facebook comparisons can be negative.
An article by LiveScience discusses how social networking can hurt self-esteem and damage ones self-concept. A study of college students found that “time spent on Facebook is linked to depressive symptoms.” Which they also claim doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook leads to depression but it can definitely cause some symptoms to show.
The studies that LiveScience are discussing hint at how social comparison constantly takes place online and their research showed that “For people with lots of friends, the Facebook Newsfeed turns into a parade of good news about other people’s lives” and “all of this information can make them feel worse about their own achievements or lack thereof.” This is in comparison to people with fewer Facebook friends who were found less likely to think that their friends were showing off. Making social comparisons like this can be a very detrimental thing to how we view ourselves. It makes us think if we are doing as much in our life as so and so who is travelling the world and doing this or that? It can cause very negative thoughts about our own lives and what we are doing with it.
Ok, so how do we spot, stop, and prevent any damage?
To conclude, it is important to realize that there is no real way to stop how we view ourselves; we are always susceptible to spotting some form of flaw in our self-concept. The best thing to do is to think about our Emotional Intelligence, which, as Julia Wood says “is the ability to recognize feelings, to judge which feelings are appropriate in which situations, and to communicate those feelings effectively” for example if your brother called you fat, how do you react?
You have to be able to understand that feeling of being upset and teased, then deal with those emotions in a positive way to negate the feeling of upset and sadness. Maybe this means you understand that he is jealous you got to eat that candy or maybe you know that his comment was wrong because you workout a lot and really you aren’t fat at all.
However, it isn’t possible to always to control these emotions and feelings in this way and this is another way that adolescent depression can begin to develop. The NY Times has a very informative article about adolescent depression and it offers up ideas on the causes, symptoms, ways to diagnose, and to treat teens that may have depression. So, while we may not always be able to avoid connecting negative attributes to our self-concept we may be able to minimise them and help others through something like adolescent depression.