If you looked at social media on your commute today or while waiting in line for your lunch, you probably got a little jolt of positivity to your self esteem. I know I did. #HappyWomensDay was a trending hashtag over the weekend thanks to International Women's Day, and its feel-good effects are lingering into Monday, as organizations from Mashable to the White House to Disney delivered messages supporting gender equality in education and employment worldwide. U.N. ambassador Emma Watson hosted a live chat on Facebook to promote HeForShe.org. Stars from Reese Witherspoon to Laverne Cox showed their support on Instagram and Twitter. (One of my favorites: "@NickJonas: #HappyInternationalWomensDay - girls rule boys drool.") And many of the people in my personal feeds—people I actually know in real life!—were sharing images of their moms, grandmas, sisters, and female icons like Gloria Steinem who inspire them.
But not every day is International Women's Day, and we've all heard about the negative effects of social media on the way we view ourselves. Some say it's causing a rise in plastic surgery, eating disorders, and unbearable peer pressures to fit new societal norms of what is and isn't beautiful. Dove and Twitter recently released a study that reported that there were over 5 million negative Tweets posted last year about women's bodies, and most of those Tweets were things we were saying about ourselves. Here at InStyle, we know from own habits that isn't the only story. If something was always making us feel bad, why would we be so addicted to it?
To get some insight on our relationship with our Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat streams, InStyle conducted a study of 1,000 women ages 18-49 to learn how social media fits into our lives and really makes us feel. Turns out that we all deserve a little more credit: Not only are we in charge of what we post, share, follow, and favorite, but social media also strengthens our relationships—with ourselves, other women, and our favorite brands.
Here's what we learned: We're all addicted to social media, with 95 percent finding time throughout the day to scroll through our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds. And the thing we're looking for most? Compliments. Of those surveyed, 89 percent said that getting a "like" on social media feels like a compliment, while 82 percent said compliments on social media improve their self-esteem. We also found that those feel-good vibes have a domino effect: The majority of women said that after receiving a social media compliment they are motivated to post more compliments on others’ feeds. This practice, whether in the form of complimenting a friend’s outfit in an Instagram post or tweeting something positive about your colleague’s accomplishments, may seem casual at first, but the effect is lasting. A whopping 75 percent concluded that social media has strengthened their personal relationships.
But while the benefits of consuming content on social media has its upsides, there is one area that needs improvement: How we see ourselves. Our study found that we put a lot of energy into how we present ourselves to the world. We untag photos we deem to be unflattering (66 percent); stop to reapply makeup before an image is taken (62 percent); and overall, are very careful about what images of ourselves we post (85 percent). In a nutshell: We are our own worst critics.