Social Media and Personal Branding


Paxton Scott, Head Online Editor

Suicides now surpass traffic accidents as the leading cause for teen death. A recent study found that roughly 20% of teens struggles with depression before reaching adulthood. How did we get here?

It is impossible to attribute the rise in suicide and depression to any single factor, but numerous expert cite social media as a contributing influence.

Applications like Instagram and Facebook create a false reality. According to social media, happy moments are plentiful while sad ones are scant. If reality was a Facebook feed, beach vacations would be plentiful while hard days at the office would be nearly nonexistent. And according to Instagram, the majority of the population look like models.

None of this is true. It is simply a façade. A façade built upon the structure of social  media and enforced by a multitude of likes and comments.

The social media façade is not inherently bad, but when accepted as reality it can be incredibly destructive. For viewers of social media, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing reality with social media reality. And real life always comes out at on the bottom.

It is impossible for a real people to compete with their digital images. But so many viewers fall into just that trap. The conclusion? You guessed it, self-image problems

While more prevalent in girls than boys, self image problems and the belief of some level of inferiority plague the middle school and even high school culture. A recent study by BLISS, a British fashion magazine aimed at teenage girls, found that 90% of teenage girls are “unhappy” with their body.

This is not to say that social media is solely responsible for body image problems. Those have been around since the fashion industry began courting picture perfect models.

But social does exacerbate the problem. Teens who view enchanted pictures of their more traditionally attractive peers and see the hundreds of likes that those pictures accrue draw two conclusions.

First, they are not as attractive as the picture of their peers. Second, physical attractiveness leads to more popularity and friends. Both of these conclusions are detrimental and lead to issues like anorexia and depression.

Why do people keep going back? The answer is simple —  social media is addicting. It is addicting to be perfect. It is addicting to be seen by the world exactly as we wish to portray ourselves.

Social media forces teenagers to develop a brand. And these personal brands must be  perpetually promoted through picture perfect posts and clever comments.

This form of self branding is constricting. Once a person’s digital brand is established there is the overwhelming need to conform to that brand. To do otherwise would be admit that social media brand is a fraud, a fake.

With the holidays around the corner, remember, social media does not portray reality. If you see a friend’s picture of a “perfect Christmas” you are seeing the social media reality. In actual reality, you can confidently assume that something almost defiantly went wrong during your friend’s holidays.