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Why social media can improve self-esteem

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A recent study conducted by Dr. Zaheer Hussain, Lecturer in Psychology at Derby University, discovered that five minutes on social media can improve self-esteem. This study has actively worked to debunk theories that social media is damaging to a user's sense of self-worth, resulting in increased levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

However, when there are numerous studies which show the damaging impact of long-term social media usage, why does this study seem to debunk facts?

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The reason why lies within the timeframe. Five minutes is a relatively short period of time to measure in comparison to other surveys and studies which evaluate the impact of long-term usage, so there should be little surprise that the results are positive.

Hussain notes that stress is a predictor for social media usage, meaning that those who are stressed are statistically more likely to engage in online activities such as checking their Facebook and Twitter.

Overall it works as a short-term distraction from the world around you. During those five short minutes, you don’t have to worry about deadlines and work, rather you are engaged in a culture and community of people each liking, sharing and commenting.

Furthermore, you could go as far as to say that increased self-esteem during this time is a result of having contact with people in a comfortable environment. Although nothing can replace going out with friends for a coffee, sometimes the modern era demands less flexible working and social hours and to a certain extent, the caffeine has been replaced by a short shot of social media.

In short, though we don’t always have time to go out, we always have our friends in our pocket and know we can rely on them to share a humorous video or send a quick message via Snapchat to cheer us up throughout the day.

Whilst some studies have previously noted the harmful effects of long-term social media usage on self-esteem and mental health, often the positive elements are ignored. Hussain’s study demonstrates that social media creates a community of people, one would argue a self-support network, which can benefit your moods in the short-term.

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As to whether this study changes my opinion surrounding the negative impact of long-term social media usage is another question entirely.

Hussain’s study highlights that social media is not all about vanity and bragging; sometimes it is a community of those people closest to you where you each support and encourage the best in each other, sometimes without even knowing you are doing it. Perhaps for this reason, I have never directly associated social media with low self-worth.

Whilst, yes, I agree with professionals that social media is linked to poor mental health and self-esteem, I find this to be a very one-sided argument. I am a firm believer that if social media is a trigger for your low self-esteem, then other environmental factors play a role also, whether television, print media or strangers around you.

If you have low self-esteem, a vast variety of wider world sources will often have a negative impact on your mental well-being, not just social media.

Whilst I recognise that the wider world also plays a role in low self-esteem, I am not ignorant to the fact that social media plays a negative and sometimes overwhelming part in society. Critically, I would say it plays a role in the creation of poor self-esteem, but it is not the only contender in the ring.

Overall, following Dr. Zaheer Hussain’s study, it is evident that social media is a catalyst for bringing to light the various mental health concerns prevalent in modern society. Whilst for some it may be a trigger, it is also a support network and, in part because of its long-term negative impacts, an awareness raising system of the ever-increasing issue of mental well-being in western society.

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