The Impact of Social Media’s Unrealistic Expectations

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Rifat Ara Bonnhy
November 5, 2023
social media unrealistic expectations

Think of social media like a versatile tool, sort of like a Swiss Army knife for the digital age. It helps us connect with others, have conversations, and share our life moments with friends and even strangers. But, there's something tricky about it – it quietly makes us feel like we need to be perfect in how we look, act, and live. This hidden pressure can make us feel bad about ourselves and make us confused.

In this article, we'll explore how social media works and how it can mess with our thoughts and feelings. We'll also give you some tips on how to keep your mind and emotions healthy while using social media. To make these ideas clear, we'll share real stories that show what we mean.

The Impact of Social Media

social media impact

Social media platforms are expertly designed to keep us engaged. They use various tactics, from custom feeds to enticing notifications and striking filters, all aimed at making us stay online. But these very tactics can have a profound influence on our self-perception and our views of others.

At its core, social media grants us the power to showcase a carefully curated version of ourselves. We meticulously select the best photos and only share the highlights of our lives. Moreover, we can tailor our online experiences by following and engaging with content that highlights our positive attributes. This can bring about a sense of belonging and affirmation, as we bask in the digital applause.

However, there's a flip side to this coin. We're constantly exposed to the seemingly perfect lives of others. We witness their triumphs, thrilling adventures, and immaculate appearances. This perpetual exposure can lead to detrimental comparisons, where we measure our self-worth against the standards set by others. Doubts about our own capabilities may creep in, accompanied by feelings of envy or inadequacy.

Concealing the Real and the Sway of Influencers

Social media often obscures the mundane or challenging aspects of life. It endeavors to show us content it believes will capture our attention, based on our past interactions.

Furthermore, social media is home to "influencers," digital celebrities with substantial followings who can sway public opinion and consumer choices. These influencers often employ digital enhancements, like filters and flattering lighting, to project an image of unattainable perfection.

This constant inundation of curated content can cultivate unrealistic expectations about our appearance, behavior, and possessions. It can also divert us from our genuine preferences, values, and aspirations.

In essence, social media has a significant impact on how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. While it empowers us to display our best selves and fosters connections, it can also fuel harmful comparisons and distort our understanding of reality. To navigate this digital landscape wisely, we must proceed with mindfulness, staying true to our authentic selves and values.

Psychological Consequences

When we talk about the influence of social media on our emotions, it's like this vast digital landscape where many of us spend a significant part of our lives. It's not just about chatting with friends or sharing photos; it goes deeper than that. It's like a mirror reflecting our self-worth and appearance, and sometimes, that reflection isn't kind.

Imagine scrolling through your social media feed and seeing perfectly posed photos, flawless faces, and seemingly ideal lives. It's hard not to compare yourself to these seemingly perfect standards. This constant exposure to idealized images and curated stories can slowly erode our self-esteem, making us feel like we're falling short.

And then there's the anxiety that can creep in. The fear of missing out, or "FOMO," as it's often called, can make us feel anxious if we're not doing what others seem to be doing. The pressure to get more likes, followers, and comments can turn our online presence into a popularity contest, with each post becoming a bid for validation.

Struggling with Self-Worth and Anxiety

struggling with anxiety and self worth

Our self-esteem, which reflects how much we value ourselves, can take a hit when we engage with social media. It's easy to feel inadequate when we compare ourselves to the seemingly perfect lives portrayed by others. The curated posts of success, beauty, and happiness can make us feel like we fall short. This can lead to a sense of worthlessness and undermine our self-esteem.

Anxiety, that jittery feeling of impending doom, can be exacerbated by social media. The constant need to stay updated, fear of missing out on something exciting, or worrying about receiving negative comments can create a continuous cycle of stress and apprehension.

Distorted Body Image

distorted body image social media

Our perception of our own bodies can be heavily influenced by social media. The platform often showcases idealized, unrealistic body images. Celebrities and influencers frequently use filters and photo-editing tools to appear flawless, which can make us feel pressured to conform to these standards. As a result, we may become dissatisfied with our own bodies.

This dissatisfaction can lead to serious issues, such as:

1. Body dysmorphia: This condition causes an individual to obsess over minor imperfections in their appearance, which may go unnoticed by others.

2. Eating disorders: These are serious mental and physical illnesses that impact eating habits and self-perception. Examples include anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

3. Cosmetic surgery: Some individuals turn to surgery in an attempt to achieve the idealized appearance they see on social media. However, this can come with risks and complications.

It's crucial to recognize that social media often presents an unrealistic and unhealthy perspective. Not everything we encounter online accurately represents reality, and we should be more compassionate and accepting of ourselves.

Social Media Platforms

Social media platforms aren't just the culprits behind those unrealistic expectations; they also have the power to make things better. They can change the content we see and how we interact. They can also help us make smart and healthy choices.

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The Magic and Responsibility of Algorithmic Feeds

Algorithmic feeds are like the secret sauce that decides what we see on social media. They use fancy math to figure out what we like and show it to us. This can be great because it gives us stuff we're interested in and keeps us coming back. But it can also be a bit tricky.

Sometimes, these algorithms make us see only what we already agree with. It's like we're in a little bubble, and we don't hear different opinions. This can make us believe things that might not be true and make problems worse. Social media platforms need to make sure their algorithms are fair and clear. They also need to keep an eye on what's happening and remove any mean or bad stuff, like hate speech or lies.

Giving You the Power

You shouldn't feel like social media controls you. You should have the power to decide what you want to see and how you use it. Here's how:

1. You should be able to change your settings, like picking what you want to see or don't want to see.

2. You should know how much time you're spending on social media and what they're doing with your info.

3. You should learn how to use social media in a healthy way and stay safe online.

4. You should have help when you need it, like someone to talk to when things get tough.

So, social media can be a force for good if they do things right and give you the power to control your own experience.

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Strategies to Combat Unrealistic Expectations

Social media can be a mixed bag when it comes to our mental health. It connects us to people, information, and entertainment, but it can also make us feel like we don't measure up. The good news is that we can take control and make our social media experience more positive. Here are some practical steps to help us do just that:

1. Be Kind to Yourself

Remember, we're all human, and it's okay to have flaws. Self-compassion means treating yourself with the same kindness you'd show a friend. Recognize that you're not perfect, and that's perfectly fine. This can boost your self-esteem and help you handle stress and tough emotions better.

2. Cultivate Gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful way to counter feelings of jealousy and unhappiness caused by social media. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on the good things in your own life. Think about your achievements, the people who care about you, and the experiences that have shaped you. Gratitude can help you appreciate your own journey and lead to a happier outlook.

3. Stay Present

In our fast-paced online world, it's easy to get caught up in what's already happened or what might happen next. But finding contentment often starts with being fully present in the moment. Mindfulness encourages us to pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings right now. By being more aware of how social media affects you, you can better manage your emotions and reduce anxiety and sadness.

4. Balance Matters

While social media can be a great way to connect and have fun, it's important to strike a balance. It's easy to spend too much time online, which can disrupt other important parts of life like work, family, hobbies, and health. Having a mix of fulfilling activities can help you keep a healthy relationship with social media.

5. Reach Out and Share

If social media is taking a toll on your mental health, don't hesitate to talk to someone you trust. Friends, family, or professionals can provide guidance and emotional support. Sometimes, just talking about how you feel can make a big difference.

In conclusion, you have the power to shape your social media experience and protect your mental well-being. By practicing self-compassion, gratitude, mindfulness, and balance, you can take control and make social media a positive part of your life. Remember, you're not alone on this journey, and there are always ways to find happiness and fulfillment online while taking care of your mental health.


Throughout this article, we've dived deep into the world of social media and its effects on us. We've talked about how it can give us these crazy ideas about how we should look, act, and live. And we've seen how these ideas can mess with our heads, making us feel bad about ourselves, anxious, and unhappy with our bodies.

But it's not all bad news. We've also looked at how social media platforms play a big part in this. They use their fancy algorithms and influencers to shape what we see and how we feel. But here's the good part: we can take control of our social media experience. We've shared some ideas like being kind to ourselves, appreciating the good stuff, staying in the moment, finding a balance, and talking to someone when things get tough.

Now, here's the big picture: social media isn't all good or all bad. It's all about how we use it and how we let it affect us. We need to be smart and make choices that are right for us. And don't forget, social media isn't real life - it's like a shiny version of reality. So, don't compare yourself to others or try to live up to their standards. Be you, celebrate your uniqueness, and embrace who you are.

As for the future of social media, it's full of possibilities. Platforms keep changing and coming up with new ideas. People are getting more creative too, sharing things they care about. Social media could be a force for good, bringing us together and inspiring change. But it could also cause harm if we're not careful, spreading lies and driving us apart.

So, here's the choice: we can use social media to make our lives better or worse. We can use it to express ourselves or hide from who we are. We can find inspiration in it or let it frustrate us.

We hope this article has helped you understand how social media can mess with your head, and given you some tips on how to deal with it. We also hope it's made you think about how you use social media and whether you can make it a more positive part of your life.

Thanks for reading. If you liked it, please share it with your friends and family. If you have questions or thoughts, please leave them in the comments below. And if you want to learn more about this topic or others, check out our website. We'd love to hear from you.

Rifat Ara Bonnhy
About the author

Rifat Ara Bonnhy

Rifat works as a marketing associate for a management advisory agency. Being from business studies background, she combines her knowledge and experience in social media to provide exposure to her clients. Rifat has helped her clients grow their presence on multiple social media platforms like Facebook, Discord, OnlyFans, and Reddit. She is more than happy to share the tips and techniques she follows to help her clients across these platforms.

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