Do you ‘like’ your self-esteem?

Photograph by Lucy Hayball, Lucy, 2017

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to think about social media and the effects it has on society. I’ve written a post similar to this before, but recently found an article which made me want to talk about it again. (Plus the fact it’s Valentine’s week so I thought it was fitting!)

We get a rush of happiness when we do something good or help someone. This rush of happiness is the release of dopamine in our bodies, making us feel good. Using social media every day is a gold mine for the release of dopamine in our bodies. This is because every time we post something or interact on social media, “we are creating an expectation”. An expectation that others will interact with us. And when they do, we feel a sense of belonging and goodness about ourselves.

Not only this, but it has been found that the “same brain areas that are activated for food and water are (also) activated for social stimuli”. This ‘social stimuli’ can be the feedback we get on social media. If somebody likes, shares, comments or interacts in any positive way with our post, we “get the positive effects of it”. It makes us feel good. Because of this, we return to social media to continually feel good about ourselves socially. Some people will judge their own beauty upon the likes they get. The more likes and positive comments received, the more dopamine released. Even an alert on your phone can release dopamine. It creates a rush to check our phones and this is what we seek out. It creates a cycle for us in order to feel good about ourselves.

It’s not to say that this happens for everyone, but research from Dove has found this to be the case. I mean, it is weird to think about why we like or share things. To us, it is an everyday occurrence, liking and sharing. But really there is a fundamental reason why we like, share, comment, retweet the content that we do.

(The study in the article was conducted by RadiumOne found in an issue of The Marketing News)

So it’s understandable why our self-esteem may be dashed if we don’t get as many likes on our selfie. We actively go through a cycle of social approval. Bombarded with others images that we see as ‘prettier’. Getting likes makes us feel better about ourselves.

If communications professionals are able to understand why certain demographics interact with content then this can inform approaches and improve results. The challenge comes when attempting to make a connection via social media. A connection that is personal rather than virtual.


One campaign that I thought of whilst writing this was the Dove Real Beauty campaign. Part of this is the Self-Esteem Project. As a brand, Dove has recognised that social media has started to define what real beauty is. They found that self-esteem has become so low that many people will chase social approval in likes to feel beautiful. Nearly half of 18-23-year-olds admitted, “that social media makes them feel worse about their appearance”. Dove decided that they wanted to create “a world where beauty inspires confidence, not anxiety” and target people on a personal level.

This campaign aimed to tell and encourage girls that they didn’t need likes to become beautiful. The only likes that they needed or even counted were their own. The campaign included a platform, association with Guides and Scouts, workshops and a role model initiative.

What I loved about this was the fact that brands are trying to make a change. Going further than fulfilling our needs as consumers to buy and use goods or services. Dove has gone the extra mile to make a change to such a big issue in society. Social Media is determining beauty. It’s about time that we thought more about ourselves and a huge brand are doing their bit to change that.

In my opinion, I like it when brands go that extra mile. I could be biased, considering this is a topic I feel strongly about. We are in such an image-obsessed culture so it is a brilliant initiative, in my opinion.

You could say it is one hell of a PR move. But at the end of the day, what a brilliant idea.

See more about their campaigns here


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