Benítez 1

Valeria Benítez-Vera Instructor: Malcolm Campbell English 1102 9 April 2013

How does social anxiety affect self-esteem in adolescents through social media?

I am a nineteen year old curious about societal changes and what they bring with them. As far as I can remember, my childhood was built and characterized by physically interactive games, excitement, and complete cluelessness of other people’s opinion. How can such a simple stage in the development of a person be somehow different 15 years later right? I have an elevenyear-old sister, and as a very curious and meticulous observer, I have numerous questions and concerns of the things that are most important to her. She doesn’t have anything to really worry about at the age of eleven; she’s barely on her first pubertal stage or in high school to have drama in her life. Aren’t I right? I came to fin out I am one hundred percent wrong. After asking her a handful of questions about her interests and motivations, I learned that girls around her age pay a significant amount of attention to online networking sites. I came to start using one of these probably when I became a teenager. Not only this generation of “onliners” weigh enough importance to these sites, but how and why was definitely what amused me the most. This generation of pre-teens, lets say raging from ages 10 thru 12, are in constant use of these online social networking sites for the following reasons: to gain social acceptance, increase their popularity among peers, and to state self-worth. Growing up in this “linked society” who

Benítez 2

more or less depends on technology on a daily basis has beneficially assessed the mature population, but has taken away the joy of being a stress-free, happy, careless kid. This increase in the specific use of social media for acceptance purposes has increased to the extent that has motivated professionals to research the triggers and reasons behind this new way of exploiting social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. The use of social media for the purpose of gaining acceptance in various aspects of life could be problematic. Adolescents who have great dependence on external factors to develop their self-esteem are said to experience depression, mood swings, instability, and vulnerability. In a study made by psychologists of Utrecht University, Free University and the University of Texas came to the conclusion that these major effects are derived from the development of social anxiety. Social anxiety is explained as the “persistent fear and/or avoidance of situations that entail potential scrutiny from others and the associated shame or humiliation” by Kashdan & Herbert (Reijntjes 774). Two main points characterize social anxiety, the fear of negative evaluation and social avoidance and distress. Going more in depth to the definition of social anxiety and its link to the four main points stated above, social anxiety is directly correlated with a person’s self-esteem. Because socially anxious individuals tend to over exaggerate situations, specifically negative scenarios, high levels of social anxiety is positively correlated with self-esteem. This correlation is better explained by Crocker & Knight: “socially anxious people attach excessive importance to others’ evaluations, and it appears that they lack a stable sense of self that is relatively independent of others’ approval” (Reijntjes 775). Depressive symptoms have a linkage with a person’s social anxiety and state self-esteem. First off, to understand this we must know that state self-esteem is a fluctuating state, meaning

Benítez 3

that it changes momentarily depending on any given occurring situation regardless of being positive or negative. Clinical researchers suggest that people with state self-esteem that are centered/dependent on other’s admiration and appreciation are at risk for depression. This is so because of the vulnerability socially anxious people develop; an increase risk of depression is faced with major everyday negative interpersonal events. Not only constant negative events, but others suggest that it is as simple as generalizing the contingency of self-esteem on external validation per say (Reijntjes 775). Results of Albert Reijntjes case study on social anxiety are as follows: State self-esteem fluctuates in response to others’ momentary appraisals, the different evaluation outcomes yielded significant differential changes in state selfesteem. Negatively valenced events have a greater impact than positively valenced events of the same tye. Children with elevated fear of negative evaluation possess a more reactive, ‘hair-triggered’ sociometer than their peers. Specifically, these children experienced stronger increments in state self-esteem following social approval, and stronger decrements in state self-esteem following disapproval. (778) Another very important detail to mention in this new era of social networking use is the need for popularity that these newcomers look for when online. The need for popularity refers to the motivation to do certain things in order to appear popular which affect a wide range of social networking sites behavior (Utz 40). Social networking sites allow users to carefully plan their self-presentation and appear more social and popular, this being a key factor to maintain connections to friends or stranger who have access to one’s publications. Compared to the traditional meet-cute or just day-to-day personal interaction, this generation would rather have a

Benítez 4

carefully enhanced public identity via social networking sites other than simply present themselves as is. Making a straight connection to self-esteem, introverts with low self-esteem who would consider themselves unpopular offline, will also manage to look popular on Facebook for example. Studies have also found that there is a positive relationship between the need for popularity and self-disclosure and jealousy. Going back to my initial motivation, I remember once browsing through my sister’s Instagram profile and it amused me how many likes she would get per picture. I’m talking, 60+ likes per picture, regardless of what was the picture about, whether it was a famous quote, a portrait of herself, or just a piece of paper. Clicking on the number of likes per picture would give you the list of people or “profiles” that liked it. When I clicked into the number of likes received for any picture, I see that more than half of the numbers correspond to robot profiles that automatically make a great amount of likes to appear per picture. This was a new world to me, a robot that would make it seem like a big group of people simply “liked” your picture? Why would you need that for if it isn’t genuine appreciation? The day I finally couldn’t help myself anymore with questions I approached her and asked her about this outrageous number of irrelevant likes on her Instagram pictures. She explained to me that this is what “everyone does now…the one with the best likes is basically the best of course.” I had absolutely no words. This is it; this is the reason for all of the alterations to the use of social media, the want/need to be popular whether or not you’re being true to yourself or the rest. Today’s online users must understand the counter productivity aspect of using social media for raising a person’s popularity. The extent that this generation goes to, such as statuses, pictures, and promiscuity in appearance may seem extremely productive and essential now, but it

Benítez 5

isn’t until later that they’ll maybe understand the long-term negative effects that they can bring. Adolescents are manipulating their virtual physical appearance to compensate for their insecurities, unaware of the fact that they aren’t finding an effective escape and elimination of them, but an excuse for them not to believe it temporarily. Society needs to realize that adolescents attempt to gain social acceptance and worth through public media by falsifying their appearance and affecting their psychological health. The realization of how much adolescents, even closely related peers, value social acceptance has made me realized that this generation has significantly changed in comparison to my early adolescence. I discovered the concept of social anxiety and it’s application to daily life, specifically in the use of social networking sites. After all of the research on online and offline behavior, and how they are both linked to a person’s emotional health, I can now approach and analyze conduct of certain people through posts/publications in online social media.

Benítez 6

Works Cited Douthat, Ross. "The Online Looking Glass." The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 June 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. Fioravanti, Giulia, Davide Dèttore, and Silvia Casale. "Adolescent Internet Addiction: Testing the Association Between Self-Esteem, the Perception of Internet Attributes, and Preference for Online Social Interactions." Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 15.6 (2012): 318-22. Web. Hollenbeck, CR, and AM Kaikati. "Consumers' Use Of Brands To Reflect Their Actual And Ideal Selves On Facebook." International Journal Of Research In Marketing 29.4 (n.d.): 395-405. Social Sciences Citation Index. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. Reijntjes, Albert, Sander Thomaes, Paul Boelen, Menno Van Der Schoot, Bram Orobio De Castro, and Michael J. Telch. "Delighted When Approved by Others, to Pieces When Rejected: Children's Social Anxiety Magnifies the Linkage between Self- and Otherevaluations." Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 52.7 (2011): 774-81. Web. Utz, Sonja, Martin Tanis, and Ivar Vermeulen. "It Is All About Being Popular: The Effects Of Need For Popularity On Social Network Site Use." Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking 15.1 (2012): 37-42. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. Villani, Daniela, Elena Gatti, Emanuela Confalonieri, and Giuseppe Riva. "Am I My Avatar? A Tool to Investigate Virtual Body Image Representation in Adolescence." Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 15.8 (2012): 435-39. Web.