Social Media, Good for Self-Confidence?

Photo: Dustn
Photo: Dustn

Lewis Sloan, Contributor

Self(ie) Hate on the Rise?

Most of us have felt it. You just posted that photo of you in a Halloween costume you spent weeks putting together. Or maybe you were showing off a new outfit, perhaps that tattoo you sat through hours of pain to have. And there it is – the notification followed shortly by that distinctive buzz of elation. People like your photo. And because they clicked that thumbs up, or the heart symbol, it must mean they really like it. Right? One more ‘like’ and you’ll reach a hundred! A temporary boost in self-esteem.

But for all the perceived positive effects of this endorphin rush, another side of social media was exposed this week when a young ‘insta-model’ made the headlines.

Essena O’Neill stunned her combined half a million followers across Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, posting a video last week describing the internal demons that she has been battling online. After discussing how she would painstakingly spend hours building her online image and creating the perfect “selfie”, the Australian model revealed that she was ‘quitting’ her social networking accounts.

“I was living through a screen”, she said emotionally on her video, “[I was] wishing that people would value me.”

Essena O'Neill
Photo: Essena O’Neill/Instagram

This public denunciation of the falsity of the ‘online image’ that resulted from her story garnering international attention interestingly made headlines at the same time that QUB’s Mental Health Awareness Week is getting underway.

There’s no denying that raising awareness surrounding the dishonesty of such filtered pics can be a good thing, but exposing the truth behind these photos is barely scratching the surface of the bigger issue. The images we portray on our social media accounts go far beyond the perfectly filtered photo shot at the perfect angle.

Inspired by O’Neill, Nottingham student and Instagram model Lexie Harvey shocked her followers with a declaration that she spends hours getting dressed up for nights in which she never leaves her flat. We’ve all looked longingly at photos from a night out that we had to miss.There’s even an acronym to describe our fear of missing out: ‘FOMO’. The SU Pub even has a night in it’s honor.

Comparisons with our peers is natural, but this need to compare is being exasperated by our vastly increasing online profile. We see beaming smiles in a friends photo and we begin to wonder why our life is not as happy as theirs. We are watching everyone have fun and our feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem are heightened.

If it is in our nature to compare our lives to that of others, particularly at a young age, we must insist on refusing to engage in continued self-destructive comparisons by spending all of our time, in Essena O’Neill’s words, “living through a screen”.

This week, QUBSU are promoting the Think Out Loud campaign. To get involved, visit 

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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