The advent of social networking sites (SNS) revolutionized how people interact online. Precisely, it made connections faster, intimate, and convenient. With social media, users can keep in touch with their friends and be informed about their life (Siddiqui & Singh, 2016). Strangely, research studies findings indicate that dependency of SNSs as a medium of social interaction adversely affects one’s mental health and well-being. The pressure to present the ideal version of oneself negatively impacts how one uses introspection, self-observation, and other people’s reactions to know themselves. Thus, significantly interfering with the self-knowledge process.
Most social media users, due to the pressure of presenting an ideal self, opt for false self-presentation resulting to dire consequences on their self-self-knowledge process. The cognitive imbalance therein affects individual introspection, self-observation and the perception of other people’s reaction to their ideal self. Consequentially, they develop mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and stress. Mainly because of the guilt of false self-presentation. According to a study conducted by Wright, White, & Obst (2018) noted that falsified presentation of oneself corrupts introspection. Thus, people develop an inclination to view themselves in a socially appealing manner, which affects their mental state. The biased perception of themselves significantly makes them insecure about traits they deem socially unappealing(Wright, White, & Obst, 2018). Hence, they tend to obsess over these traits leading to depressive tendencies and stress. More so, it lowers their level of self-confidence to create meaningful real-life connections for fear of rejection by their friends. The user, as a result of false self-presentation, lives in denial, unable to embrace who they are, and understand themselves better.
False self-presentation adversely affects the self-observation process, causing an individual to see no real value in their actual self. Notably, the thought processes of self-observation become highly sensitive to their socially unappealing traits or circumstances in their life. As a result, they develop wrong and negative attitudes towards themselves that further affect their psychological stability Sharma, Chaturvedi, & Mellor (2017) asserts that social media users are more vulnerable to biased self-observation behavioral patterns compared to non-users. Besides, they become prone to self-destructive behavior because they see misconstrue their real-worth based on the standards of others (Sharma, Chaturvedi, & Mellor, 2017). The interference of the self-knowledge process, as a consequence of over-reliance on social media, thus, becomes a causal factor for lack of self-worth, suicidal behavior, and depression.
Currently, emoji reaction features in social media platforms undermine the self-knowledge process. Many users understand themselves by evaluating people’s reactions to their ideal self. Social media users tend to get attached to the responses of people to their social image and tend to use it as a way of understanding themselves. This new dimension of self-knowledge makes them vulnerable to inaccurate and biased opinions that do not reflect their real selves. As a result, when they face rejection or other forms of harsh reaction, the users develop mental health issues, even when these reactions are false and deceitful (Vogel, Rose, Roberts, & Eckles, 2014). Social media reactions, therefore, by replacing the actual cognitive processes of self-knowledge, become a controlling factor in how one understands themselves in the broader context of society.
Although the invention of social media was primarily to enhance social connection, it has become a tool for deception, and as research shows, become detrimental to meaningful face-to-face relationships. Falsified self-presentation, exaggerated personalities, and deceptive impressions on social media platforms are a critical causal factor of low self-esteem (Toma, 2016). Therefore, most social media users have low self-confidence when meeting new people face-to-face. The traditional forms of social interactions focused on both physical and cognitive attributes to judge an individual. However, social media cause self-misperceptions- one of the critical causes of low self-confidence because it only focuses on the superficial aspects of human character. According to a research study conducted by Twomey & O’Reilly (2017), the erosion of the authentic-self increases makes people insecure, therefore, significantly affecting their self-esteem. People fear face-to-face social interactions because it may reveal the flaws hidden by their ideal self-presentation. For example, image filter technology used to edit photos posted on social media platforms may exaggerate one’s real character. So, they become reluctant to attend face to face meetings to avoid rejection.
Social media only shows you the person how others perceive your physical self, therefore, failing to provide an individual with different personality-related views of how people perceive them. Mainly, SNSs only reveal individual perceptions of your aesthetic self. Mostly, people focus on how they see and not your cognitive character and behavior. People in social media platforms do not offer information about how you relate with others. Interpersonal characteristics and skills are an elemental aspect of self-knowledge (Aronson, Wilson, Akert & Sommers, 2019). Essentially, it helps you to construct an accurate hypothesis of the actual value of your real-life relationships with other people. This information is valuable because it helps one to further understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Also, social media does provide information about the admirable traits that you possess. These are important to advance one’s understanding of the positive elements and the role they play to add value to the individual self and others in society.
To conclude, social media use inhibits the self-knowledge process. It also affects once cognitive balance leading to multiple mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress. In light of these observations, it is imminent to consider intervention strategies, including increased policy regulation, to ensure responsible social media use. Also, public awareness campaigns on the negative impacts of technology will be imminent to help mitigate the high risks associated with social media use.
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