|Source: JPI Social Media Management|
For example, someone who is self-conscious about their skin may only post pictures of themselves with makeup on, while someone who suffers from depression may only post pictures of themselves having fun.
Social media is a vehicle for users to create an alternative persona of their ideal self. Although this seems beneficial, a lack of authenticity can present social and behavioral issues for users.
People are motivated to have their true self acknowledged and validated by others
Validation and acknowledgement from others makes us feel secure about our actions, looks, and personality. In the age of social media, this desire for recognition has been increased significantly. Social media allows users to have their posts viewed by thousands of people at one time. Through "likes," retweets, or shares, users can gauge how their posts are received by others. This motivates users to create online profiles for themselves that will be received favorably by others.
In an Omaha Central Register article, Social Media Affects Teens' Self-Esteem, Personal Identity, writer Haley Raney explains that many teenagers become obsessed with their social media popularity and have low self-esteem as a result. She notes that "Without a lot of likes, followers, or retweets, teens see themselves as not good enough." Since social media broadcasts the "perfect image" of how people should act or look, those who constantly view social media may feel inadequate when they cannot achieve their unrealistic social or aesthetic goals.
University of Maryland senior Judah Eisenman, a frequent social media user, comments on the relationship between social media use and self-esteem.
He notes that as one uses social media more frequently, they will "gravitate more towards the need for approval from others." While validation of one's true self is a natural human desire, social media causes people to create alternative personas which receive greater and more instantaneous validation than they receive from their true self in reality.
People are more extroverted and less emotional on Facebook than they are in reality
In their article, The Psychological Benefits of Being Authentic on Facebook, researchers Rachel Grieve, PhD, and Jarrah Watkinson, explain the strong correlation between authenticity on Facebook and psychological health. They conducted a study in which 164 Facebook users between 18-55 years old completed a series of five personality questionnaires, titled: True self, Facebook self, social connectedness, Subjective well-being, and depression, anxiety and stress. The researchers measured the distance between one's true self and the self they portray on Facebook. They then looked into what greater distances meant in relation to the participants' social skills, subjective well-being, and level of anxiety, depression, and stress. First, they found that the gap between the participants' true self and Facebook self was greater for certain characteristics. The two characteristics that were found to contain the largest gaps were extraversion and emotionality.
The first graph suggests that people are more extroverted on Facebook than in real life. Since users are able to control the frequency and type of content posted, they can appear to be more outgoing on Facebook than they are in real life. These users feel a constant need to appear extroverted which can be unhealthy for those who are naturally introverts.
The second graph indicates that people are more emotional in real life than on Facebook. If a person is self-conscious about their emotionality, they can easily ensure that only their happy moments appear to others on Facebook. By hiding their true self from others, users gain temporary satisfaction but deepen their lack of self-confidence in reality.
The larger the difference between one's true self and their Facebook persona, the less socially connected they are
Grieve and Watkinson then found that the distance between one's true self and Facebook self is positively correlated with stress and negatively correlated with social connectedness. The more one is consumed with gaining approval from others and fitting into society, the more they will alter their Facebook self from their true self. Greater alteration means higher levels of stress. On the other hand, portraying one's true self on Facebook is worry-free and requires little planning of the posted content. These authentic Facebook users experience lower levels of stress.
Those who are confident with their true self and feel a sense of belonging will portray their true self online. These people that feel belonging with their true self are generally socially connected. Those who are not confident in their true self and do not feel like they belong in society will portray themselves differently online in a way that enables them to feel that sense of belonging they need. Therefore, those who have a large distance between their true self and Facebook self are usually not socially connected.
20% of teenagers gain self-confidence from social media use
Although a lack of authenticity on social media can be harmful to many users, some can gain self-confidence by expressing themselves differently on social media than in real life. Grieve and Watkinson note that anxiety about personal judgement prevents certain people from expressing their true self in face-to-face interactions. Since online interaction is more easily controlled, these people find it useful to portray their true self on social media instead. In a CNN article about the benefits of social media for teenagers, writer Kelly Wallace shares that 20% of teenagers say social media makes them feel more confident while just 4% say that it makes them feel less so. This suggests that for certain types of people, increased social media use can boost self-esteem and confidence.