Social Media and Our Need for Respect - Kimberly Thompson

This article is the fifth in the Taking Care of #1 series, about the hierarchy of human needs, how we experience those needs, and what we can do to help ourselves move toward higher-order living.

In my last post, we discussed our need to belong, and how social media can and cannot meet that need. Today we are going to consider our “esteem” needs – the need for respect, admiration, and positive strokes. You may have been socialized to be self-effacing and modest, but honestly the need to be esteemed is completely normal and natural. With a few caveats, of course – you can’t make yourself more important and impressive by putting other people down (I’ll bet your mom or grandma told you that already!).

Social media is a double-edged sword when it comes to the need to be esteemed. On the one hand, you can present yourself however you want to on social media and no one will be the wiser. It feels good to get likes on your posts and followers to your pages. On the other hand, trolls. You know, those people that get joy out of saying horrible things that they would never say to your face. The people who get joy out of bickering over politics, religion, and social issues are less severe than trolls but can still trigger constant feelings of unease and the fight-or-flight response.

If you find the respect and esteem that you have for yourself wavering when you’re on social media, here are some things you can do to take back control and still keep the positive connections you enjoy.

Don’t hesitate to block trolls. There’s really no point in allowing that kind of negativity into your life or onto your social media. That goes for your personal pages and for any professional pages you manage. It’s kind of a backward compliment if your professional pages are big enough to attract a lot of trolling (it means you’re attracting a lot of attention, pat yourself on the back), but who needs that nastiness in their life? It feels traumatizing to the nice people who are following you too.

Unfollow feeds that are upsetting. Because I’m a baby boomer, my primary personal social media at the moment is Facebook. This platform has a nice feature where you can unfollow people and they don’t know – they just no longer show up on your feed. So, if it’s your brother-in-law posting inflammatory stuff, with one click you can stop the madness on your feed – with no consequences in real life. (How to handle this guy IRL is beyond the scope of this post). Check out the social media that you use the most and figure out how to control what shows up on your feeds.

Set boundaries around your social media use. Try a social media fast, or at least a social media diet, for a few days. Notice if you feel better about yourself and your life! Social media may be dragging down your self-esteem. Weirdly, the more time you spend online, the more bored and out of touch you may feel. I can’t tell you what a social media diet would look like for you – it all depends on your lifestyle and whether you use it for personal or professional reasons. One way to approach it is to disable notifications on your phone, and to only check your feeds at certain times of the day. Public service announcement: There’s no need to announce that you are going on a social media fast! Just do it.

Set boundaries around your social media engagement. It can be tempting to weigh in on current issues. However, it might not be worth it. Conversations on social media are never private and are therefore unpredictable. Instead, reach out to friends and family in real life, engaging them one-on-one. That’s the way to foster deep connections, enhance your sense of being valued and respected, and give respect in return.


I’m Dr. Kimberly Thompson, a clinical psychologist with a maternal mental health practice in Lubbock, TX. From pre-conception to the empty nest, mothers can work with me in-person and online. Download my free e-book, The Busy Mom’s Self-Care Planner, and bring yourself into your circle of care. You can also find my book, Perfect Mothers Get Depressed, on Amazon and the Praeclarus Press website.