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How Social Media Can Distort Reality

Updated: Mar 17, 2020

By: Leah Hovey

Social media has given us a lot of wonderful benefits through the years. It gives individuals access to more information, it can give helpful organizations a platform to advertise their message, and it can connect us with the people we love. There is no doubt the rise of social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat has given us many positive outcomes. Unfortunately, these apps can also have a negative impact on our self-worth.

A popular concern with social media is the distortion of reality through the construction of “internet personas.” We all put out a certain image of ourselves online. Whether we want to use our platforms to gain professionalism for our work or whether we want to exhibit a lifestyle of partying, there can be many personas we push out for the world to see. Some individuals use their platforms to advertise beauty products, to constantly keeping up with the latest trends, and some have specific apps to show the various trips or experiences they have. Regardless of what you are trying to exhibit, there is a danger in only showing one aspect of ourselves online. We all want to advertise our successes online, but this can be dangerous.

By portraying only one side of ourselves on the internet, we are showing others what we want them to see, not necessarily the reality of our lives. Showing the world how successful, how beautiful, or how much fun we are can be detrimental due to who is viewing your profile. Individuals who may not be able to achieve certain lifestyles view these photos and it can make them think they have to live up to this standard of living. Social media does not show the side of us that struggles with mental health, that stays in on the weekends, or exhibits the financial struggles we all have. It is only portraying one side of us, and this can send out a message to others that because they are not living this lifestyle, they are lacking.

A recent national survey has shown that social media use can severely impact one’s self-esteem and how they view themselves. This study discovered that a medium-high percentage of social media users were using these apps to engage in ego-fulfilling behaviours, to increase self-esteem, to validate their own self-worth, or to use them as a means of building self-esteem (Andreassen, et al., 2017). This can be dangerous, as building or using social media as a means of gaining self-worth can lead to narcissistic personality traits, an addiction to social media, and a significant loss of self-esteem when one feels as though they do not live up to this “online standard.”

This common concern with social media is something we all need to keep in mind when viewing photos of our peers or how we feel about our own social media presence. Conscious Counselling has partnered up with Toronto photographer Sabrina Chevallier to show how Instagram can distort reality, through a photo series that will be posted throughout the month. In the first of these photos, a girl is taking a selfie of her post-workout, while behind the lens of Instagram she is surrounded by a makeup team for a photoshoot. This is to show how what seems “natural” may not be the entire truth.

To see more of Sabrina’s work, keep an eye out this month for our weekly photos that will be incorporated as a part of this series. If you’d like to learn more about Sabrina’s work (including a project she is currently completing for an anxiety/depression photo-series) check out her website!


Andreassen, C. S., Pallesen, S., & Griffiths, M. D. (2017). The relationship between addictive use of social media, narcissism, and self-esteem: Findings from a large national survey. Addictive behaviors, 64, 287-293.

Chevallier, S. (2019, May 29). Social Media Distortion 1 [Photograph]. Social Media Distortion, Toronto, ON.

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