Is Social Media Infringing Upon Your Worth?

(by Danny)

Recently a study was released that took a look at the effects of social media use and social media validation on an individual’s self-worth and sense of purpose and meaning.

The study consisted of two different parts and had as its participants a group of undergraduate university students. The first part divided students into two groups: one that could not use Facebook for 48 hours and one group that could. The second part of the study again divided into two groups: one that was rigged to receive a lot of positive feedback on their status updates and posts, and one group that was rigged to receive absolutely no comments or likes.

Participants were then evaluated to see how the different situations affected their sense of belonging, self-worth, and meaning.

It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone what some of the results of the study were.

The group that was unable to use social media as a means to self-expression felt a greater disconnect, loneliness, and lack of worth and meaning as compared to those that did use Facebook. Likewise, those that received no feedback on their posts felt “invisible” and suffered from the same disconnect and loneliness as the group that couldn’t write or post at all.

This topic is of particular interest to me. It’s probably safe to say that very few of us, if any at all, are immune to the effects of social media use and the validation (or lack thereof) that can come from it. Mara and I can certainly feel it. On days when comments are low, it is of course easy to wonder if the topic wasn’t engaging, if what we offered was not valuable, or if people even care. Even if those thoughts are fleeting, they still make an appearance.

It can be even more difficult for an individual when they confuse the rejection of whatever thing they shared with a rejection of them and their value as a human being.

This is all too common. Even when social media is not a factor, it does not take too much looking around (or inside) to discover that far too many people base their worth on things outside of themselves. This is why a key message of this blog (and the first thing we teach every time we get to speak somewhere) is about the importance of finding and establishing worth from the inside out, instead of from the outside in.

No matter how convincing the world’s message may be that your value as a human being is dependent on what other people think of you, or what the circumstances of your life may be, or what kind of personal decisions you’ve made in the past….it just isn’t true. But it takes work to rid yourself of those deeply ingrained beliefs. I’m still working on that myself, and probably will be for some time to come.

In political studies, you learn of the idea of certain inalienable rights (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness). They are inalienable, argued the founding fathers, because they do not come from any outside source. They are not originally possessed by any government to give out or take away…they are INHERENT in every human being. Simply by existing, they believed, you have a right to certain things as endowed by your Creator.

The same could be said of the inherent worth and value of a human being. My experience has been that as much as I was tempted to build my worth on external things (how someone treated me, whether or not I had friends, and if I had them how good they were to me, what job I had, how much money I had, etc.) that all those things may fail in the end, but my worth can remain intact. That’s a hard lesson to learn, but it is the most important one.


What are some situations that you find difficult in regards to social media?  What lies about yourself might you be accepting as truth that makes this situation so painful?  Will you join us in remembering to not have your worth connected to social media whatsoever?

(Photos by Melissa Hope – her instagram feed is so amazing.)

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  1. Sophia May 20, 2014 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    I think the hardest part of social media, for me, is the way it seems to encourage me to compare constantly. It promotes such a false sense of reality; it's almost bewitching how it can make you feel less than others. It makes me think of the Dementors in Harry Potter, as it sucks the happiness from you. That may be an extreme analogy, but not too far off, I don't think. Even in this comparing that I do, I wonder what's wrong with me that I need to compare myself all the time. From so many angles, it's all about a deficit within oneself, while the rest of the world remains seemingly whole. I wish I could remember social media's falseness more readily. Once, I deactivated my Facebook account for two weeks. I felt freer than I'd felt in a long time. As soon as I reactivated, the old habits of comparing started back up. What would it mean to disconnect and reconnect with the real world? What would it mean to snap photos that you never post? What would it mean to be in a moment instead of instagramming it? What would happen to one's worth, and the worth of one's life, then?

    • danny May 20, 2014 at 1:50 pm - Reply

      I don't think the example is extreme at all. You describe something I've seen and heard too often….and yet it does have this sort of hypnotic power that we just keep coming back to.

      Oh, and the idea of being in a moment, instead of instagramming it….perfect. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Lauren May 20, 2014 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Thank you, great post! I came off of social media a year ago and have felt so much freedom personally. Certainly not for everyone. But I am very happy I did :).

  3. Anonymous May 20, 2014 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    Hi Danny!

    Thanks for writing. I really enjoy your writing as it seems really practically and it doesn't feel as if you presume yourself perfect by any means. That's so helpful for us readers. I totally understand that you guys don't dwell on negative things and that's a part of your practices and how you live, but sometimes it can seem as if you don't struggle, so when we struggle it's hard to know what to do when it seems as if you two just don't struggle at all. Does that make sense? I realize you don't highlight the struggles because that's against how you work against them. But sometimes it seems reading that ya'll don't struggle at all. I know that's not the case in theory, but it's great to read about how you still seek to grow in how you live. It's great to hear about how you do still struggle, because it gives us hope in how we struggle and we can learn most from that. Thank you for writing this post and letting us in on a bit of that.

    My question is for you today though, and it's different than this post. It's something I have thought a lot about for a while now even as I have read ya'lls other posts having to do with this. I remember when Mara talked about this a while back in her post, yet I have always wanted further clarification as it seemed a bit fuzzy to me and I just want to understand better.

    As a woman, I have heard my whole life about men's struggles with lust (i'm not even going to touch on porn in this comment, because i don't want to delve into that right now as much as just the concept of women in general). I find ever since the time you're little men make comments about women's appearance, jokes, etc. Even dads do this! I have honestly, never, ever, in my life though heard how this should be thought of. I know the whole concept in theory of how men should treat/ thinking about women, but i don't know how that plays out practically inside the head of a man in his thoughts. Like I want to hear it broken down thought by thought. Hah. When you see a pretty woman walk by, are you tempted at all to think about her? Have you ever been? Have you ever thought poorly in this area and then changed your thinking later on? For a man, what is the correct response to have when a beautiful (not modestly dressed) woman walks by? I really want to know the exact thoughts you think when a gorgeous cladly dressed woman walks past you, since you seem to be a godly man who respects women. What crosses your mind when that happens? How do you purposefully think in that moment, or do you not have to whatsoever? Is there a struggle for you? I have heard godly men in the church say there will always be a struggle and I truly wrestle with that. I want to know for a man's perspective, and honestly I have heard a lot of men want to know too. I have heard guys in my life say that's something that's not actually REALLY talked about and they wonder what is the correct response, what is normal, what is pure, what is GOOD. I want to know how that plays out in your marriage… how you think of Mara. Do you think intrinsically she is the most gorgeous woman? Are men supposed to think that way? How do you think about staying committed to Mara for the rest of your life? What drives that? I want to know the nitty gritty stuff as I feel NO ONE talks about this frankly. It's all seems to be in general concepts of respect, but no one gets down to business about what that actually looks like and means and what exactly and specifically is being thought by strong men in this category.

    • danny May 21, 2014 at 5:03 am - Reply

      Thanks Anon for the comment…you ask a lot of interesting questions. I don't have time to write something in response now, but hopefully will be able to gather some thoughts when I get up in the morning. Stay tuned…. 🙂

  4. Anonymous May 20, 2014 at 4:59 pm - Reply


    I would really appreciate your thoughts on this and i have talked to many girlfriends lately and even men who have wondered similar things but who are too "scared" to ask others and who don't really know who to ask. I feel this is a common struggle. I mean I think this is a big deal and I would really love your thoughts. I'm sure it would be revolutionary for a lot of people.

    Thank you!!

    (I'm going to remain anonymous as not to cause questions about myself or friends or anyone I know. I don't want my friends to think I'm talking about them, or even my husband since these are sensitive topics and ones that have caused a lot of issues and need sifting through. I feel we could all benefit from your frank and practical advice! 🙂 )

  5. Anonymous May 20, 2014 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I quit Facebook years ago because although I liked reconnecting with old friends, I couldn't handle a lot of what other people would post. The constant need of these people to either show off, brag, or their blatant need for compliments became too much for me and had to leave and I felt a noticeable improvement in my own life since I wasn't so occupied with what was happening in others lives.

    Pretty recently I became intrigued by Instagram and it has quickly become an addiction. It's been good in many ways by connecting me with new artists, health activists, new fashion ideas, and several other things. However, I've noticed recently how I've become so unhappy with my own life. I'm a stay at home mom of four kids and I can't seem to find much joy in it lately. I have been so impressed with several moms who also have a business or who also write books or who also travel as well as so many other things that I started looking at my own life in comparison without really knowing I was doing it and began to feel less than. I think many people are able to strike a good balance of being inspired by others and not comparing. I guess I'm not one of those people although now that I have realized part of the problem, I'm working on it.

    Another part of the problem for me is that I had been spending so much time on social media that I wasn't been an attentive mother or wife and I wasn't accomplishing enough in my day. I wasn't spending hours, but every time I sat down to feed my baby or something like that I would take out my phone and begin browsing. Anyways, I was too distracted.

    It's funny that you should post this today as it's been in my mind so much lately. I'm really having a dark period in my life right now and feel like I'm struggling so much and so many of your recent posts have been very good for me and provided a starting point for me to actually find my self worth and believe in it for the first time in my life. It sometimes seems that I'll never get to this enlightened state because I give in so often to the negative thoughts but I keep trying so I think that's good:)

    Thank you for all you both do! This blog is part of what has sent me on a path to true freedom and happiness and I know that's what I'll find as I keep working at it. So thanks:)

    • Anonymous May 21, 2014 at 3:40 am - Reply

      Totally could relate to this post. The bragging/show offs, the distraction (my kids trying to get my attention), the need to compare, etc…. those are similar issues I've experienced. So glad to know I'm not the only one feeling like this. I feel like we should grab coffee and talk!

    • danny May 21, 2014 at 5:06 am - Reply

      For the purposes of the blog, I should probably use social media a lot more. I should most likely be posting every time that we put something up….but at the same time I really don't like social media at all.

      I'm not sure that I've ever posted a status update in my life. And I basically only use Facebook as a means for someone to contact me, or me to contact them. But I don't look at the feeds.

      So I get where you're coming from.

  6. danijela May 20, 2014 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    Great thoughts! The impact of the social media is a very interessting thing. I have noticed that I compare myself with other people more than I did before the social media time. I have such a great life and still – sometimes I have to remind myself not to forget it.
    I am very close to quitting facebook and co. … and yet, if you are running a business, it is nearly a must to "socialize".
    Greetings from the Swiss Alps

    • danny May 21, 2014 at 5:08 am - Reply

      Exactly the dilemma I stated above. I don't really like it much at all…..and yet I should be promoting the blog and sharing with as many people as possible.

      Sometimes it is necessary advertising, but often it is a waste of time. I'd rather read interesting ideas that get my brain churning than find out what someone is up to.

      That's just me 🙂

  7. Marlene May 20, 2014 at 8:13 pm - Reply

    Totally totally agree! I quit facebook over 4 years ago and it was the best decision. My life is so much simpler. I don't waste emotional or intellectual energy processing information on people who are "friends." I'm also not on twitter or instagram. I basically stay in touch with my friends and family using my phone and personal emails when I can't see them in person. I feel like my life has improved dramatically since I cut all this stuff out. Sometimes I feel sad when I think about the photos of family members around the world I'm missing out on…or even parties I don't get invited to because they invitations were on facebook. But the truth is, I hear from and get invited to the things by people whom I really care about and vice versa. Personally I think social media is the worst thing out there for adolescents. Such a fragile understanding of who they are and so influenced by other people's opinions of them, I feel like social media only fuels a very confusing time.

    • danny May 21, 2014 at 5:11 am - Reply

      Agreed about the teens and adolescents. It builds an entirely false system of worth and value, and breeds narcissism and self importance based on the number of friends and followers and likes…or breeds despair and doubt because your social media efforts don't pan out.

      If all of us adult minds struggle with the impacts….imagine what is going on in the minds that have not yet fully developed.

  8. clay crew May 20, 2014 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    This is definitely something we should all be aware of.
    On the same topic as it applies to youth, this pbs video is worth your time.

  9. SKC May 21, 2014 at 2:50 am - Reply

    I have a very small social media footprint – just e-mail and Instagram (and in one year, I've posted 13 images). Personally, I find the way in which people use social media baffling. Many people have created such a strong social media presence that I often wonder when they have time to live or be in the moment. Every moment of their life is perfectly chronicled for all to see, posed and re-posed until the moment appears to be perfect. I find this inherently leads to comparisons and feels of inadequacy and doubt. And the movement to document anything and everything has, for some reason, also removed the social filter from many people's mouths. Suddenly, it is acceptable to share extremely personal information about yourself or others, and it is easier to bully and share hate – all cloaked behind the "safety" of your screen. As a former teacher, I suddenly found myself spending more time helping my students navigate through the cyber-world safely than I did on helping them learn a concept or mend fences with a friend sitting right next to them. It baffled me when my grade four students asked me why I didn't have Facebook – they did! (& their parents helped set it up!) I liked Sophia's analogy of the Dementors in Harry Potter – social media sucks the happiness out of you – either because you're now comparing yourself to your circle of friends, or you are spending all of your time posing your life's moments to look perfect. I don't think she's too far off!

    • danny May 21, 2014 at 5:15 am - Reply

      What an interesting shift to see in your young students.

      And I totally agree, most of social media tends to cause you to live in some other moment than the one you are actually in. It seems as though at times it leads people to care less about what they are actually doing, and more about whether or not someone will like what they're doing.

      Of course this isn't true for everyone, or all the time. But the truth is, most of us already have enough moments of our lives where we fail to be truly present for something. And the social media stuff can just make it that much more difficult.

  10. Anonymous May 21, 2014 at 4:29 am - Reply

    Thanks for writing about this, Danny! It's such an important topic right now. While I definitely compare myself with others on social media from time to time, the thing that makes my self worth suffer the most is feeling so guilty about the amount of time I spend looking at Facebook and Instagram. It's like my default setting. If I'm not doing something urgent, or if I'm between tasks, my automatic action is getting on my phone and looking at the latest posts. Before I know it, 30 minutes or more are gone, and my apartment is still a wreck, my kids have been zoning out in front of the TV, dinner is not started. Then of course I feel all kinds of self loathing for being such an awful mother/person for just sitting like a lump staring at a screen for so long. And the thing is, while I love my FB friends, often what is being posted is not anything urgent or particularly important. It's like, why do I need to be looking at this constantly? Why can't this wait for a day, or even for a week or a month? If something big happens to someone I care about, I'm sure I'll find out soon enough. I have heard a lot about how these programs are designed to keep you coming back for more, and it's so true. You get a little reward every time you log on, and it really can become an addiction. The challenge I have now is trying to find a middle ground and figure out how to stay connected without totally giving my life over to this media. If anyone has tips on this, I'd love to hear them! I don't want to totally disconnect, but I know that I would be much happier with myself and my life if it wasn't an automatic habit that seems to take over my days.

    • danny May 21, 2014 at 5:23 am - Reply

      I write this not knowing for certain that it is the answer…but it might be 🙂

      I've written lately a little bit about my early studies into the value of meditation. One of the key ideas behind meditation, is actually forcing you to just be with yourself. Most of us have trained our minds to go from one thing to the next and never to just be. To me, that is part of what you describe above.

      And though I don't use social media a ton (outside of this blog), I have my own things that I so quickly go to in order to fill up the space of those spare minutes which turn into hours.

      I've begun small practices of meditation to begin to combat this, and want to go deeper into the practice. And I can't help but wonder if that is part of the answer, at least for me.

      Forcing myself to be truly alone with my thoughts, with no other stimulation. No news feed, no blog post to read, no friends updates to look at, no forum discussion to engage in, no screen to look at. Just me and my brain, trying to connect more deeply to my soul, to God, to Love, and to the things that matter most.

      And as much as that sounds like such a great idea, the truth is tomorrow I will likely still allow those distractions to be just that, distractions.

      But, I have begun to incorporate the practice more in my day to day. Little by little. Sometimes, when I am aware enough of where my brain is going, I stop and I just listen to my breathing, and focus on being quiet and still, and then grateful.

      I need to do it more. 🙂

    • Raven May 21, 2014 at 3:54 pm - Reply

      I love this idea of small practices of meditation. I feel like social media sometimes fills in all the nooks and crannies left over after I've worked with our children all day. But when all is said and done, it's not a very satisfying mortar, at least for me. This has inspired a new goal for me: don't shy away from time with myself; welcome quiet moments when I can access the thinker behind the thoughts. Thank you for this post!

  11. kim May 21, 2014 at 11:14 am - Reply

    As a small business owner social media is a necessary evil but I guess I kind of enjoy it. I don't find that I'm really comparing myself to anyone mainly because I'm having fun and enjoying sharing the nutty and fun and crazy that is our life . I grew up in a big noisy family and I think that lends itself to the big SHARE. I see this subject brought up a lot lately and i admit it slightly baffles me – if you can't see through the fake/pretend la-dee-dah lives that a lot of these bloggers profess to live then you definitely need to shut it all down and regroup . I'm a big fan of volunteer work ( we help out animal rescues locally) and there's nothing that will boost one's self worth like helping someone or something that can do nothing for you in return. Basics. : )

    • danny May 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm - Reply

      Amen Kim! There truly are very few things, like service, that will provide such an immediate and authentic connection to other human beings, or to the inherent value deep with in yourself.

  12. Camille Millecam Whiting May 21, 2014 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    I just wanted to leave you a comment and say this was a great post. Sometimes that validation needs to happen even when you have nothing to say 🙂

  13. Anonymous May 21, 2014 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    Great post! I actually am surprised by the results of the study; I would have thought that the more time away from social media, the better you feel. Going on a two week trip to Cuba last year without internet felt wonderful! Of course, I got hooked when I came back home. I wonder if the results of the study would be different had the time away from social media been for longer than 48 hours. At that point, you're probably still in withdrawal haha!

  14. Kathryn May 23, 2014 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    Sometimes it's hard not to compare ones "insides" with other peoples "outsides."

  15. Anonymous May 25, 2014 at 2:10 am - Reply

    Great post! Thank you, Danny. It always helps to have these reminders. One thing that helps me when it comes to Facebook is to recognize that most people are putting their best foot forward–we don't see what goes on behind the screen. There's a quote I really like that's related to this issue…something like, "The reason people suffer from low self-esteem is because we compare our insides to others' outsides."

    – Nisha

  16. jbrcarroll May 27, 2014 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    The master teacher once said, 'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Feelings of self-worth come from within, and are inseparably connected to a relationship with the "master teacher." This is so because we act on the things we believe, and not necessarily on the things we know. Our relationship with ourselves is deepened and enriched by a belief, and hence actions, that we are related to deity. When we believe that we are important to our maker, our meditation reaches a new plane, we are self-assured, and pleasant distractions (like FB and others) are just that, pleasant distractions. They are also temporary, and not nearly so addicting, because it is not on them that we rely for the reassurance that all of us need. From such a vantage point of self-worth, we can generalize that all have worth, and it changes the way we interact with each other.

  17. Crista Baasch May 28, 2014 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    My dad had told me before that I couldn't live without Facebook for one day. I have done it a few times just to prove him wrong. The first day without it it felt weird, like I was forgetting to do something. I didn't feel out of the loop, just felt like I needed to do something. I did spend the day reorganizing my house lol. We don't realize how much we depend on social media until we don't log in for a whole day.

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