How Social Media Elicits Perfectionism And Mental Problems

How social media develop adolescents’ perfectionism mindset?


No one wants to be defeated in a sports competition. In the same way, no one wants to look ugly in the eyes of spectators. Beauty creates standards in different parts of the world.

Because everyone wants to be attractive, people, especially the young adults would do whatever it takes to look good. But too much longing for good looks sometimes results to perfectionism.

Throughout the decades, scientific evidence consistently finds the increasing level of perfectionism among young adults. The desire to be attractive is soaring even higher. This trend is more evident among college students than the older ones.

Researchers Thomas Curran and Andrew Hill, in their meta-analysis successfully gauged the generational perfectionism changes from 1980 to 2016. The authors used the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale.

The test measures three perfectionism traits:

  • Self-oriented perfectionism – people with this trait tend to have an irrational desire to be perfect.
  • Other-oriented perfectionism – implementing other’s perfection standard on oneself.
  • Socially-prescribed perfectionism – conforming to the general standard of perfection.

The authors found that, between 1989 and 2016, self-oriented perfectionism scores were up by ten percent. And the other-oriented perfectionism increased by sixteen percent. Lastly, the socially-prescribed perfectionism increased by thirty-three percent.

This is an alarming finding. The authors speculate that the desire to be perfect may result in a problematic psychological state. The result supports the global health estimates which state that more and more young people experience higher levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation.

But the real question is, what causes this alarming increase of desire to be perfect? Of course, the issue is multidimensional. Curran, on the other hand, believes that social media may have played a significant role.

The young generation called the “Millennial” more often use social media than the older adults. But instead of becoming stress-free, young people become even more pressured. This is because online interaction makes young people realize their imperfections.

Through social comparison, many adolescents become bitter of themselves. So the more they feel bad about themselves, the more they find ways to achieve perfection.

However, the research on this topic is still in its infancy. More research is needed to confirm the possible link between social media usage and the desire to be perfect.

Young people not only compare themselves in terms of physical attractiveness but also academic performance. According to Curran, college students are driven to achieve more in school. This pursuit of high academic standards is the result of what he called, meritocracy.

Meritocracy is a system which the elite ones will rule the rest. Everything is based on exceptional skills, talents, and achievements.

Comparing oneself to another may result in an unrealistic goal in many aspects of life. Which in turn elicits psychological problems. Thus, Thomas Curran and Andrew Hill urge governments and policymakers to take immediate action on this matter. But no one exactly knows how. At least, by now.

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