Social networks have changed the way we communicate. They have given us a platform to stay in touch with our loved ones wherever we are. But they have also turned us into masters of self-presentation to the point where portraying our lives has become more important than living life itself. Studies show that the trend to constantly optimize our self-presentation is a very unhealthy one.
Social media platforms certainly brought about many advantages like staying connected with people we love wherever in the world we are and also reconnecting with people we’ve lost touch with and see what they have been up to. Since social media has become such an influential phenomenon, it is about time for science to address the consequences it has on our interpersonal relations.
We decide how others see us
How do we communicate and present ourselves on social media platforms? Are the pictures we upload really representative of our real life? Or do we only share photos that fit with the way we want others to see us? And if that is the case, how does the way we present ourselves affect others? Simply put: do we only share the happy beautiful moments of our lives and – assumed that everyone else does too – does this create a negative feeling within us that tells us everyone’s life is much more adventurous, colorful, and happy than ours? If this is the case, it is not hard to imagine that the vicious cycle of everyone showing off only the good parts about their lifes ultimately could lead to unhappiness.
To examine these questions, the psychologist Alexander Jordan of Stanford University and his team first asked participants of his study (all of them students) how often positive and negative things happened to them in the recent past. After that, they asked their classmates how often they thought positive and negative things had recently happened to their fellow students. What they found was the classmates had a distorted perception of the participants’ lives. They thought that they had experienced much more positive moments than these students actually had.
The unhappier others, the happier we are
Another study examined in what way the assessment of the well-being of others influenced our own well-being. The findings indicated that the more we believe others to be happy, the more unhappy we are. This is because we tend to compare our life to that of others, which means that if we feel like others are living a more fun and interesting life, we automatically depreciate our own life more and become less satisfied with it.
Fake image on social media
Scientists point out that we tend to present a sugarcoated image of ourselves in social interactions and also on social media. Apparently, we feel like we need to give off a flawless image of ourselves to people around us. But after hearing about the recent findings of our tendency to ‘fake a perfect picture’, maybe we should ask ourselves whether we would all be much better off if we just let others see the honest imperfect and vulnerable truth about ourselves – on social media and in real life.
1: Jordan, A. H., Monin, B., Dweck, C. S., Lovett, B. J., John, O.P, & Gross, J. J. (2011). Misery Has More Company Than People Think: Underestimating the Prevalence of Others’ Negative Emotions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(1), 120-135.