The Internet is an amazing tool and while it has rapidly shrunk our world and brought us all a little closer together, it has also raised our level of self-consciousness (and not in a good way!). Like any useful tool, to make technology serve us well requires us to use a level of good judgment. In this era of social media, there’s a new style of competition out there. Competition itself isn’t anything new, but its effects on our self-image are now more obvious than ever. No longer is it about keeping up with The Joneses, it’s all about keeping up with The Kardashians.

Today, social media is drastically changing the way we communicate with one another. It is now being leveraged by companies and public figures to influence buyers in buying decisions, trends and viewpoints. But as social media continues to mold and influence communication, marketers have had to shift their approach.

Self-image vs Lifestyle

It appears that at this moment that marketing approach is the lifestyle approach. But what effects are these platforms and markets having on us as individuals?

Photoshopped images of models are influencing many of us to believe that if we buy this or that, we will achieve a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that is only achievable through such a purchase. However, we all know that usually the exact opposite is how we end up feeling (typically due to the guilt we associate with overspending or making unnecessary purchases). In fact, recent studies have linked depression and social media, most significantly in teenage girls.

Why is this important? Well, many social media communities are created around specific topics and ideas; they are designed typically to develop like-minded social groups rather than diverse ones. If you consistently search for the same things—in this case, those that cause you to make comparisons against skewed depictions of beauty—the system will begin to consistently present you with very similar images.

It’s important that we regularly have our worldviews questioned and challenged. Without this questioning, it’s easier to fall into a group-thought mentality and not allow room for individual growth. Don’t allow yourself to get wrapped up in any false sense of happiness, success or beauty that social media may amplify. Commit to surrounding yourself with positive individuals who support you, just the way you are.

Don’t allow individuals to define you, no one can but you!