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Matthew McConaughey: Social media users risk ‘sense of self’ on approval of others

Max Zahn with Andy Serwer
·3 min read

Twitter (TWTR) CEO Jack Dorsey told a Senate panel last week that social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook (FB) “can be addictive,” while bipartisan concerns emerged about potential psychological harm caused by the platforms.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) compared the addictive quality of the sites to tobacco, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) raised concerns about the toll the platforms take on young users’ “self-esteem and wellbeing.”

In a new interview, movie star Matthew McConaughey expressed similar wariness about the social media sites, warning that users risk placing their “sense of self” on the approval of others and posting messages that they will later regret.

“Especially children and millennials are getting their entire sense of self based on something,” says McConaughey, author of a new memoir called “Greenlights.” “Something that they, ‘poof,’ send out to the world, and they anxiously wait to see what all these strangers are going to say about it.”

“If the thumbs come back up, ‘I'm going to have a great day. Look at me, I'm popular.’ If the thumbs come back down, I drop into a depression. Well, that's not healthy,” adds McConaughey, who spoke to Yahoo Finance Nov. 12, prior to the Senate subcommittee hearing with Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Neither Facebook nor Twitter has a “dislike” button.

McConaughey, who counts 4.6 million followers on Facebook-owned Instagram and 2.7 million followers on Twitter, acknowledged that social media has helped him communicate with fans and generate revenue from his work.

The platforms “have already been good for me because I have a direct line of communication and it's not through someone else's filter,” he says. “Followers matter — for business [and] for advertisers.”

Three years ago, a study on social media use conducted by researchers at University of California, San Diego, and Yale University found that “negative self-comparison” harmed users’ mental health. Another study published that year, in the “Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology,” found a correlation between a subject’s use of social media and sense of isolation.

But findings about the mental health impacts of social media use remain limited, according to a 2018 BBC summary of available research.

Though research is scant, a Netflix documentary released in January called “The Social Dilemma,” drew heightened attention to the issue. Some prominent critics of social media, like New York University professor and best-selling author Scott Galloway, argue that the advertising model used by the sites benefits from addiction to the platforms.

For his part, Zuckerberg told the Senate committee hearing this week that research on the addictive quality of the social media platform is “inconclusive.”

McConaughey spoke to Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

Actor Matthew McConaughey attends a special screening of "Serenity" at the Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Actor Matthew McConaughey attends a special screening of "Serenity" at the Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

McConaughey also warned that young people may post comments on social media that they later regret but find themselves unable to undo.

“That comment, what you say — it's going to outlive you,” he says. “It's going to outlive all of us.”

“So think about it before you press send,” he adds.

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