• Abbie Tibbott

Social Media, Self Esteem and the Future

Updated: Dec 6, 2020



 

On the 21st July 2019 I graduated from the University of Reading. Nearly 18 months on, I can finally see the finish line of my MA, and am considering what lies beyond. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that nothing is certain. Graduate job prospects have slipped, grad schemes are on pause and postgraduate admissions are set to rise in response to the job market. Focusing on job prospects, unemployment and the cost of living are habits that have infiltrated my daily life over the past six months. It's easy to get caught up in endless scrolling of news articles that tell you again and again how the economy has suffered and that young people are a target age group to be unemployed, but in reality, that attitude isn't going to get me anywhere fast.


It's not just me that's guilty. Friends and family unwittingly feed into this bleak narrative, especially as we are spoon-fed news via every single social media. When I was in secondary school, my phone didn't have Wi-Fi; my Facebook usage was limited to my parents' desktop whenever I had some free time. We weren't educated on social media, fake news or filters, so I feel like a generation of students missed out on the education that (thankfully) current students are receiving about the dangers and false realities about what is posted online. By the time I got an iPod touch for my 15th birthday and downloaded the fledgling Snapchat app, social media was already taking off, even if it seems pretty unrecognisable to what we have linked across every device today. I'm 22 now, and I feel like I can set boundaries for myself, although 2020 is definitely the year where my phone has seen the most usage.


However, it's not all doom and gloom. This year I set myself some goals regarding my online presence, as love it or loathe it, social media has infiltrated its way into our homes, jobs and education. I wanted to make sure that my online profiles on the internet reflected my current views and aspirations, as well as learn how to make the most of platforms that I'd previously dismissed or ignored. I dedicated time to work on my online presence, which has lead to a reformation of how I am seen online. From a personal point of view, it means I have nothing embarrassing lurking for people to see, or anything inappropriate that may damage my reputation. From a professional angle, it means I am presented as an adult, which then helps me engage with information and organisations that otherwise I wouldn't have seen.


Here's an overview of how I did it:


Facebook


I got a Facebook account when I was 11, so it is by far my oldest social media. I started by clearing off my friends list to make my feed and profile more relevant. Duplicate or closed accounts were deleted first, and then a whole host of people I had met once and never seen again. I also removed anyone that I would never want to speak to in real life again, and those who I had no hope of reconnecting with. The Isle of Wight is a small place, but I had a lot of dead wood to cull. After that, I removed any photos I didn't like of myself, and untagged myself out of any photos that were old or downright embarrassing. I also unliked lots of pages that were dormant or irrelevant to my views now, and removed any information from my profile that was outdated or I no longer wanted to share.


I still go through my friends list every couple of months and remove anyone I might have been unsure about before. Trust me, I haven't had any messages from people asking me why I deleted them, so I'm obviously not missed!


Instagram


I had a second account which I deleted. It had content that was years old and I didn't need it! I also removed any photos that I didn't like, or featured people I don't like anymore. Times change and it's okay to move away from those memories if you don't want to relive them, so please don't be afraid to delete those people from your social media as well. I also unfollowed people I had no interest in so they wouldn't clog up my profile. This really helped as I have found new people to follow that have the same views as me, instead of scrolling through things I disliked due to Instagram's poor algorithm. I unfollowed anybody who used heavy editing on their photos, promoted weight-loss 'fad' products or who posted anything graphic, as I realised those are the things I hate the most. I now use my Instagram stories to post fun things that my friends will enjoy, which are mostly my cats, sea views or homecooked food. I never post anything offensive, and before I post to my main feed I always review whether it is appropriate and ensure it wouldn't upset anyone. I see my Instagram as an online photo-album, so I post for my benefit alone.


I did grapple with whether to make my account 'private'. I support people who do, but after I cleaned up my feed, I realised I didn't have anything that I would be embarrassed to show someone, so left it public.


Twitter


I've had a few accounts, but deleted them all in 2017 when I started my current account. I wanted my twitter to be a reflection of my adult life, so I use it to repost things that I find interesting relating to history, current affairs, politics and education. Twitter is a great platform and I enjoy reading what other people post as I follow people that share similar interests as me. It's definitely more of a professional profile, but I don't mind, as my Instagram and Facebook are for the more informal parts of my life.


My twitter didn't need too much work as I had been strict with the content I included from the start. There's an occasional rant by me here and there, but I never post anything offensive, and keep the memes to a minimum (you can find them on my Instagram instead).


LinkedIn


This was an account I had the least experience with, as I had created it back in 2016 as part of an employability and skills module in my first year of undergraduate, and forgotten about it since. I refreshed my whole profile, adding in my experience with accurate descriptions, posting links to relevant projects I had worked on and updating my profile picture to better reflect me. After I put in the work, my profile looks full and professional, and clearly outlines my work history and education.


I definitely use my LinkedIn the least out of all my accounts, but I'm happy that anyone who looks me up or stumbles across my profile will find an updated record of my work and education, which will hopefully serve me well when looking for work.


Finally, I made sure all my security settings were broadly the same across all the sites, to give me some peace of mind. I have never been a target for cyber-bullying, but I have had my fair share of explicit messages from strangers over the years, so you can never be too careful.


Overall thoughts


By revamping my profiles, I feel much happier with how I am presented online, which has boosted my self-esteem, and enabled me to have a much healthier relationship with social media. This website has been my latest project, and has taught me new skills, but is all closely linked with how important it is to be wary of what you are both exposed to yourself, and exposing others to through what you post.


I have reduced time spent scrolling aimlessly through news feeds, and now use that time productively, which has in turn helped me to develop a better work-life balance. Although many in my generation may have missed out on education about social media, I believe that self-help is the best method in making your social media 'future-proof'.


The news is everywhere, but how we consume it can be dictated by the apps we use and the people we follow. I would encourage everyone to take a look at their various profiles and decide whether they are an accurate reflection of who you are, and if not, change them!