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Exploring the Relationship Between Frequency of Instagram Use, Exposure to Idealized Images, and Psychological Well-being in Women


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Research on the mental health effects of social networking have predominantly focussed on Facebook, with limited research investigating the effects of Instagram on psychological wellbeing. This study aimed to address the link between Instagram use and a range of psychological variables in two parts. Participants were 129 women aged between 18 and 35 years. In part 1, women completed a series of questionnaires related to mental health outcomes and self-perceptions. Results showed that frequency of Instagram use is correlated with depressive symptoms, self-esteem, general and physical appearance anxiety, and body dissatisfaction; and that the relationship between Instagram use and each of these variables is mediated by social comparison orientation. In part 2, participants were exposed to a range of either beauty, fitness, or travel Instagram images (or a control condition with no images). Beauty and fitness images significantly decreased self-rated attractiveness, and the magnitude of this decrease correlated with anxiety, depressive symptoms, self-esteem and body dissatisfaction. Therefore, excessive Instagram use may contribute to negative psychological outcomes and poor appearance-related self-perception, in line with previous research. The research has implications for interventions and education about chronic Instagram use.
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Exploring the relationship between frequency of Instagram use, exposure to idealised images,
and psychological wellbeing in women.
Mary Sherlock & Danielle L. Wagstaff
Federation University, Northways Road, Churchill, Vic, 3842, AUSTRALIA
Research on the mental health effects of social networking have predominantly focussed on
Facebook, with limited research investigating the effects of Instagram on psychological
wellbeing. This study aimed to address the link between Instagram use and a range of
psychological variables in two parts. Participants were 129 women aged between 18 and 35
years. In part 1, women completed a series of questionnaires related to mental health
outcomes and self-perceptions. Results showed that frequency of Instagram use is correlated
with depressive symptoms, self-esteem, general and physical appearance anxiety, and body
dissatisfaction; and that the relationship between Instagram use and each of these variables is
mediated by social comparison orientation. In part 2, participants were exposed to a range of
either beauty, fitness, or travel Instagram images (or a control condition with no images).
Beauty and fitness images significantly decreased self-rated attractiveness, and the magnitude
of this decrease correlated with anxiety, depressive symptoms, self-esteem and body
dissatisfaction. Therefore, excessive Instagram use may contribute to negative psychological
outcomes and poor appearance-related self-perception, in line with previous research. The
research has implications for interventions and education about chronic Instagram use.
Keywords: Social Networking; Psychological Wellbeing; Online Behavior; Instagram
Public Significance Statement. Instagram has features distinctive from Facebook, making
investigation of the mental health effects of this medium worthwhile. Instagram use is
correlated with a range of psychological wellbeing variables including depressive symptoms,
anxiety, body dissatisfaction, and self-esteem. Exposure to idealised images leads to a
decrease in self-rated attractiveness, implying chronic exposure may impact psychological
The appealing features of Social Networking Sites (SNS’s), such as the ability to
communicate with others despite geographical distance, have attracted billions of users
worldwide, with many incorporating social networking into their daily routine (Boyd &
Ellison, 2007). Between 2014 and 2015, 72% of Australians accessed the internet for social
networking purposes, with younger age groups (< 35 years) being the heaviest internet users
(Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016). Indeed, 80% of university students use their devices
(i.e., laptops, tablets, and mobile phones) for social networking purposes.
People who have a social networking account can create an online profile to share
with other users who are already a part of their offline network, or to interact with new
people. Not only are these digital avenues revolutionising how people interact, but they have
also influenced the kind of material individuals choose to share (Vogel et al., 2014). That is,
it is common to see users highlighting their individualism by posting socially desirable
material that reflect an idealised lifestyle (Mehdizadeh, 2010). Given unlimited access to
other users’ profiles, people are likely to engage in social comparisons. Social comparison
theory centres on the belief that individuals have an internal drive to gain accurate self-
evaluations (Festinger, 1954), and do so by engaging in upwards social comparisons (i.e.,
comparing themselves to perceived superior comparators), or downwards social comparisons
(i.e., comparing themselves to perceived inferior comparators). Thus, we may compare
ourselves with others on social media as an avenue to determine our social and personal
worth. These types of social media-based social comparisons, however, may lead to negative
outcomes, particularly as individuals present their most ‘ideal’ selves on social media
(Mehdizadeh, 2010), therefore inviting upwards social comparisons from others. While the
effects of exposure to idealised images is well established (see Groesz, Levine, & Murnen,
2002 for a review of the effect of thin media images on body satisfaction), social media
platforms differ significantly from mass media outlets in how rapidly content is updated, and
in the sheer number of potential comparators it is possible to be exposed to. Furthermore,
whereas mass media typically portrays images of models and celebrities as idealistic
standards of beauty, the world of social media is awash with ‘ordinary’ people who may be
perceived as more ‘ordinary’ comparison targets. For example, excessive Facebook use has
been proposed to promote high rates of social comparison (Liu, Li, Cacioppolo, & North,
2016) and several studies have established a significant relationship between excessive
Facebook use and psychological wellbeing variables. This includes depression (Błachnio,
Przepiórka & Pantic, 2015; Steers, Wickham, & Acitelli, 2014), poor self-esteem (Błachino,
Przepiorka & Rudnicka, 2015), high anxiety (Labrague, 2014), high body dissatisfaction
(Fardouly, Hershenberg, Bhatia, & Halliwell, 2014), and low self-perceived physical
attractiveness (Haferkamp & Krämer, 2011). As of yet, however, research has infrequently
extended to the exploration of these outcomes in users of more recently developed SNS’s,
such as Instagram. As such, this study explores the link between Instagram use and various
measures of psychological wellbeing in women. We chose to study these effects in young
women, since young women make up the majority of Instagram’s user base (Pew Research
Centre, 2015), and tend to make more social comparisons than men (Gibbons & Buunk,
Despite Instagram’s shared functionality with Facebook (Wilson, Gosling, & Graham,
2012), there are some key differences that make exploration of Instagram users a worthwhile
endeavour. Instagram was established in 2010 and has rapidly grown to 500 million users in
2016 (Statista, 2016). The functionality of Instagram is reserved to the sharing of
photographs and short videos, and is commonly known for its utilisation of various photo-
enhancing filters. These filters allow Instagram users to manipulate their photographs to be
more visually appealing. Similar to Facebook, Instagram has a direct messaging function and
allows users to ‘like’ and comment on other users’ photographs and videos. A more
distinctive feature of Instagram, though, is the use of ‘hashtags’, with captions that create
links to user content. The hashtag is placed in front of a word or phrase to identify either a
keyword or highlight a topic of interest (Highfield & Leaver, 2015), for example, #fitness. As
a result, global sharing of particular items, categorised with hashtags, occurs instantaneously,
provided the user profile is made public. Uniquely, Instagram has a search and explore tab
that shows photographs and videos from public profiles, based on the users’ recent search
history, and thus introducing users to new content without the need to search specifically for
that content, further expanding the number of potential social comparison targets.
It is plausible that Instagram’s appealing features, specifically being a forum for
visual content, encourages users to engage in excessive social comparison, which can lead to
negative outcomes (e.g., Lup, Trub, & Rosenthal, 2015). Previous research has demonstrated
that visual information is remembered more readily than written information (Noldy,
Stelmack & Campbell, 1990). Thus, Instagram’s main feature of video and photo sharing
may, in fact, be more harmful than other SNS’s that have a focus on written content (status
updates and wall posts) and sharing of links to other sites (such as news articles), rather than
strictly visual displays. Lup et al. (2015) investigated this link, and found more frequent
Instagram use was (marginally) positively associated with depressive symptoms, and
negatively associated with social comparison, with Instagram use also having an indirect
effect on depression, mediated by social comparison. Interestingly, Lup et al. found the
proportion of strangers a user followed moderated these associations, with higher numbers of
strangers increasing depressive symptoms and social comparison, and moderating the
mediation between Instagram use and depressive symptoms by social comparison. Hence,
Instagram use is related to poor psychological wellbeing via social comparison.
The use of Instagram hashtags has also led to trends on the SNS that may have
negative outcomes for adult and adolescent women. For example, the trend ‘fitspiration’ (the
amalgamation of the words fitness and inspiration) purports to act as motivation for others to
pursue a healthier lifestyle, but the majority of these images contain very thin and toned
women (Tiggemann & Zaccardo, 2016). As Tiggemann and Zaccardo (2016) discuss,
exposure to images of thin idealised bodies can impact body image, and so the over-
representation of these body types on Instagram could have negative effects. Furthermore, in
an experimental study, Tiggemann and Zaccardo (2015) exposed women to fitspiration
images, or travel images as a control. The researchers demonstrated that exposure to
fitspiration images resulted in greater body dissatisfaction and lower state appearance self-
esteem compared to exposure to travel images. Despite fitspiration imagery’s intent to
encourage a healthy lifestyle, it may instead decrease the psychological health of its heavy
consumers (Tiggeman & Zaccardo, 2016). These results are consistent with the interpersonal
formulation of eating disorders theory (Rieger et al., 2010), which considers engagement in
disordered eating in response to unsuccessful social interactions a psychological mechanism
to repair self-esteem. Further to this, Turner and Lefevre (2017) found, for participants who
followed healthy eating accounts on Instagram, a small but significant correlation between
amount of time spent on Instagram and tendency towards orthorexia nervosa, an obsession
with healthy eating. Finally, Hendrickse, Arpan, Clayton, and Ridgway (2017) have
demonstrated that appearance-related social comparisons mediate the relationship between
women’s Instagram photo activities, and strive for thinness and body dissatisfaction, while
Brown and Tiggeman (2016) found that exposing women to celebrity and peer images on
Instagram increased body dissatisfaction and negative mood, mediated by appearance
comparisons. Thus, excessive use of social media that promote social comparison via visual
mediums, could lead to negative psychological outcomes.
While the research discussed above has shown that social comparison behaviour on
Facebook can impact an individual’s mental health (including depressive symptoms, anxiety,
body dissatisfaction, self-esteem, and self-rated physical attractiveness), relatively fewer
studies have examined the effect of Instagram use on these outcomes, focussing so far on
depressive symptoms and tendency towards orthorexia (see Turner & Lefevre, 2017), or on
body dissatisfaction and strive for thinness (Brown & Tiggeman, 2016; Hendrickse et al.,
2017). Since Instagram has slightly different functionality to Facebook, and is related to
negative body image trends, such as #fitspiration, it is important to examine whether that
exposure could have an effect on not only appearance-related anxiety and body
dissatisfaction, but other measures of general psychological health. Given that social
information presented through visual materials can provoke immediate social comparison, it
can only be assumed that Instagram use will have links with psychological wellbeing,
perhaps to an even greater degree than excessive Facebook use. To address this gap, the aim
of this study was to identify whether a relationship exists between Instagram use and mental
health outcomes including depressive symptoms, self-esteem, and general anxiety, as well as
self-rated physical attractiveness, body dissatisfaction, and physical appearance anxiety. We
also planned to test the extent to which these relationships are mediated by social
comparison, similar to the relationship identified by other researchers (Lup et al., 2015).
Finally, we explored whether exposure to Instagram images could have a discernible
immediate effect on psychological outcomes, by asking participants to view a set of
Instagram posts. Based on previous research demonstrating the link between Facebook use
and psychological outcomes (as described above), we hypothesised that time spent on
Instagram would correlate positively with depression, physical appearance anxiety,
generalised anxiety, social comparison, and body dissatisfaction, and correlate negatively
with self-esteem. Secondly, based on Tiggeman and Zaccardo (2015), we hypothesised that
exposure to images that invite upwards social comparisons (i.e., idealised fitness and beauty
images) would decrease appearance self-esteem and self-rated physical attractiveness, and
increase state and physical appearance anxiety, as compared to the travel images or the
control group.
Participants were 129 women ranging in age from 18 to 35 years (M = 24.60 years,
SD = 4.54) who indicated they currently used Instagram. Participants were recruited from the
authors’ University undergraduate Psychology participant pool, as well as volunteers
recruited via social networking sites and flyer advertisements on University campuses. The
research was approved by the Institutional human ethics research committee, and all
participants provided their informed consent. The study was hosted on SurveyMonkey and
included two parts. Participation took approximately 30-40 minutes, and upon completion
participants were presented with a debriefing statement regarding the nature of the
Part 1
Materials and procedure. Participants completed a survey containing the following
scales presented in random order:
The 20-item Centre for Epidemiologic Studies depression scale (CES-D; Radloff,
1977) was used to measure depressive symptoms. Participants were asked to answer a
number of questions relating to how they felt or behaved in the week prior, including “I felt
depressed” and “I had crying spells”, on a scale from 1(rarely or none of the time) to 4(all of
the time). Higher scores indicate higher depressive symptoms. The CES-D had high internal
reliability (α = 0.93).
The Heatherton self-esteem scale (SSES; Heatherton & Polivy, 1991) measures state
self-esteem across three domains: performance, social interaction, and appearance.
Participants respond to 20 items such as “I feel self-conscious” and “I feel as smart as
others”, on a five-point scale from 1(not at all) to 5(extremely). Higher scores indicate higher
self-esteem. The SSES had high internal reliability (α = 0.96).
The State-Trait anxiety Inventory (STAI; Spielberger, 1983) is a commonly used
measure of general anxiety and contains 20 items for assessing state anxiety and 20 for trait
anxiety. Items include “I am tense”, and “I am a steady person”, which participants answer on
a four-point scale from 1(almost never) to 4(almost always). Higher scores indicate greater
anxiety. The STAI had high internal reliability (α = 0.96).
The physical appearance state and trait anxiety scale (PASTAS; Reed, Thompson,
Brannick, & Sacco, 1991) measures an individual’s body image anxiety as they generally feel
(trait) and as they currently feel (state). The trait scale asks participants to best indicate the
extent to which they generally feel anxious, tense or nervous about specific body parts such
as “my hips” and “my buttocks”, on a five-point scale from 1(never) to 5(always). The state
scale asks how they feel about the same body parts “right now” on a scale from 1(not at all)
to 5(exceptionally so). Higher scores indicate higher physical appearance anxiety. The scale
had high internal reliability (α = 0.91).
Self-rated physical attractiveness was measured by two questions: “rate what you
perceive to be your own physical attractiveness compared to your same sex friends”, and
“rate what you perceive to be your own physical attractiveness compared to the general
population”, on a scale from 1(extremely less attractive) to 9 (extremely more attractive).
Scores were summed to create a single value for self-rated attractiveness. The items
correlated strongly (r = 0.72).
The Body Image Disturbance Questionnaire (BIDQ; Cash, Phillips, Santos, &
Hrabosky, 2004) assesses concerns about physical appearance. The BIDQ consists of seven
items such as “are you concerned about the appearance of some part(s) of your body, which
you consider especially unattractive?” which participants answer on a scale from 1(not at all
concerned) to 5(extremely concerned). Higher scores indicate higher body image disturbance.
The scale showed high internal consistency (α = 0.93).
Social comparison was measured using the Iowa Netherlands Comparison Orientation
Scale (INCOM; Gibbons & Buunk, 1999), with 11 items measuring how frequently
individuals compare themselves to others. Items include “I always like to know what others
in a similar situation would do”, measured on a five-point scale from 1(disagree strongly) to
5(agree strongly). Higher scores indicate higher frequency of social comparison. The INCOM
scale showed high internal reliability (α = 0.83).
Instagram use was measured using questions derived by the researchers. Items related
to frequency of use. That is, “how many followers do you have on Instagram?” from 1(1-10)
to 11(1000+), “how many accounts do you follow on Instagram?” from 1(1-10) to 11(1000+),
and “in the past week, on average, approximately how much time per day have you spent
actively using Instagram”, from 1(less than 10 minutes) to 6(more than three hours).
Design. Part 1 consisted of a correlational design, in which we correlated Instagram
use with each of the psychological wellbeing variables, and with age. Since Lup et al. (2015)
found that the relationship between Instagram use and depression was mediated by social
comparison, we attempted to replicate these findings, as well as explore the mediation by
social comparison of the relationship between Instagram use and other psychological
wellbeing variables.
Part 2
Materials and procedure. Instagram stimuli were selected by searching images from
the Instagram database of public accounts. Three categories of images were sourced, obtained
by using the hashtags #Beauty (beauty), #Fitspo (fitness) or #Travel (travel). Ten beauty
images were selected on the basis that they showed a female’s face who was obviously
wearing makeup. Ten fitness images were chosen on the basis that they showed a female
wearing work-out apparel who was either engaged in exercise or was based in a fitness centre
setting. Ten travel images were selected that represented major travel destinations around the
world, with many focussing on iconic landmarks and attractions, with no visible faces present
in any images. Each of the 30 images was ‘framed’ using the standard Instagram frame, the
original captions and usernames were removed, and the number of ‘likes’ was artificially
inflated to increase the perception of popularity (i.e., 4,427 likes to 124,740 likes). An
example of how the images were presented is shown in Figure 1. A manipulation check
demonstrated these images best fit their allocated categories.1
After completing the scales in part 1 of the study, 35 participants were randomly
assigned to the travel group, 30 to the beauty group, 28 to the fitness group, and 31 to the
control group2. For the three image groups, participants were shown each of the ten images
for their condition, in random order. To ensure participants viewed the images, they were
presented with these images threefold. First, images were presented on a single page, with the
instruction “please look at the following images carefully”. Secondly, images were presented
again on a single page, with the instruction “please look at the following images carefully and
click like’ on only two of the images that you find the most appealing”. Finally, the images
were presented with the instruction “please look at the following images carefully and write a
comment on only two of the images that you find most appealing”. The control group did not
view any images, and simply went on to answer the questions.
Following presentation of the images (or immediately after completion of the
previous scales for the control group), the participants completed the SSES, the STAI (state),
1 14 participants (8 female, M age = 33.31, SD = 7.13) were asked to categorise the images as fitting into one of
four categories: Travel inspiration, Makeup and Beauty, Fitness, or none. Each image was correctly categorised
into their appropriate categories with inter-rater agreement between 67% and 100% (M = 90.2%).
2 Six participants from part 1 did not complete part 2 (thus n = 123). A priori power analysis indicated a sample
size of 40 participants would be required per group to detect an effect of medium size. Owing to attrition and
incomplete data, actual power to detect a medium effect was approximately 0.68.
the PASTAS (state), and self-rated physical attractiveness scales a second time, in random
Design. In part 2 of the study, we investigated the effect of exposure to beauty,
fitness, or travel images (or control) on the change in scores on the psychological wellbeing
variables. Thus, for each of the variables of interest, a 2 (pre-image or post-image) x 4
(condition) mixed-model ANOVA was conducted.
Part 1 - Instagram Use and Psychological Wellbeing
As shown in Table 1, average time spent on Instagram correlated positively with
depressive symptoms, trait anxiety, social comparison orientation, physical appearance
anxiety, and body image disturbance. Time spent on Instagram also correlated negatively
with self-esteem, thus findings are consistent with the hypothesis. Exploring the other
Instagram measures taken, we found that number of followers correlated positively with
depression, trait anxiety, and negatively with self-esteem. Number of accounts followed
correlated positively with depression and negatively with self-esteem. Additionally, age
correlated negatively with Instagram use (r = -0.36, p < .001), and negatively with social
comparison (r = -0.21, p = .019).
Similarly to Lup et al. (2015), we then explored the mediation of the association
between social media use and psychological outcomes, by determining whether social
comparison mediated the relationship between Instagram use and depressive symptoms, self-
esteem, trait anxiety, physical appearance anxiety, and body image disturbance. Mediation
analyses were conducted with Hayes PROCESS macro for SPSS, using Model 4 (for
mediation) with 10,000 bootstrap samples. We included age as a covariate in every model,
given age correlated with both Instagram use and social comparison (see above). We found a
significant, partial, mediating influence of social comparison on the relationship between
Instagram use and depressive symptoms, self-esteem, and physical appearance anxiety.
Similarly, social comparison also had a significant fully mediating effect on the relationship
between time spent on Instagram and trait anxiety and body image disturbance. Coefficient
weights and effect sizes for each model are shown in Figure 2.
Part 2: Effects of Image Exposure on Change in Psychological Wellbeing
To compare the effect of exposure to different categories of Instagram images (or no
exposure in the control group) on self-esteem, appearance anxiety, self-rated attractiveness,
and general anxiety, ANOVAs were conducted with measurement time (pre-image or post-
image) within subjects, and condition (control, travel, beauty, or fitness) as the between
subjects variable. The outcome of interest was the interaction between measurement time and
No effect of condition on the change in self-esteem (p = .316), appearance anxiety (p
= .427), or general anxiety (although general anxiety did approach significance, p = .062) was
observed, which was not in line with the hypotheses. However, a significant interaction
between condition and measurement time was observed for self-rated attractiveness scores
[F(3,116) = 3.18, p = .008, η2p = .096, observed power = 0.84]. Post-hoc simple main effects
analysis (controlling for multiple comparisons) showed this was due to a significant decrease
in self-rated attractiveness for those participants who were exposed to images in the beauty
(difference score = -0.90 p < .001) and fitspo (difference score = -0.48; p = .047) categories,
but not the participants in the travel (difference score = 0.17, p = .418) or control groups
(difference score = -0.32; p = .175). No difference between the beauty group and fitness
group in the decrease in scores was observed. In order to explore which other psychological
wellbeing variables might have been associated with the decrease in self-rated attractiveness,
we selected only those participants who were categorised to the beauty or fitness conditions
(n = 58), and correlated change in self-rated physical attractiveness with each of the other
psychological wellbeing outcomes. As shown in Table 2, larger changes in self-rated
attractiveness were associated with higher depressive symptoms, general anxiety, physical
appearance anxiety, and body dissatisfaction, and with lower self-esteem scores.
Instagram Use and Psychological Wellbeing
There is an array of evidence demonstrating excessive Facebook use is related to
negative mental health outcomes (e.g., Błachnio, Przepiórka & Pantic, 2015; Błachino,
Przepiorka & Rudnicka, 2015; Fardouly et al., 2014; Haferkamp & Krämer, 2011; Labrague,
2014). In Part one of this study, we demonstrated that heavier Instagram use (as well as
number of followers, and number of people followed) correlated with a range of
psychological wellbeing outcomes, including depressive symptoms, general anxiety, physical
appearance anxiety, self-esteem, and body image disturbance. Previously, Lup et al. (2015)
showed that the relationship between Instagram use and depressive symptoms was mediated
by social comparison. Here, we discovered a similar relationship, with social comparison
having a significant mediating effect on the relationship between Instagram use and
depressive symptoms, as well as general anxiety, physical appearance anxiety, self-esteem,
and body image disturbance. These results are also in line with previous research
demonstrating that social comparison behaviour after exposure to social media has a negative
effect on mental health (e.g., Feinstein et al., 2013; Labrague, 2014; Vogel et al., 2014).
Similarly, Hendrickse et al (2017) found that appearance-related comparisons on Instagram
mediated the relationship between Instagram photo activity and drive for thinness and body
This research is important as Instagram has some distinguishing features that set it
apart from Facebook, and relatively fewer studies have focussed on Instagram. Importantly,
Instagram is associated with a range of social trends, such as ‘fitspiration’, which can lead to
negative body image outcomes (Tiggemann & Zaccardo, 2015). Thus, excessive Instagram
exposure may have an effect on other aspects of psychological wellbeing that extend beyond
depressive symptoms, to self-esteem and body image (e.g., Hendrickse et al., 2017). While
Facebook use is linked to negative outcomes, our assertion that exposure to visual media,
specifically, can lead to negative outcomes, is complemented by research by Meier and Gray
(2014). Meier and Gray showed that Facebook photo activity, rather than total Facebook
activity, correlated positively with body dissatisfaction. Therefore, based on our findings,
increased use of the image based platform Instagram, in which users post idealised images, is
likely putting users at higher risk of negative outcomes than users of other forms of social
media. While fewer studies have addressed the link between Instagram and psychological
wellbeing, than Facebook, some recent studies have attempted to address this gap. For
example, Lup et al. (2015) found a link between Instagram use and depressive symptoms
(mediated by social comparison), Turner and Lefevre (2017) have found a link between
Instagram use and tendency toward orthorexia nervosa, and Hendrikse et al. (2017) showed a
an association between Instagram photo activity and strive for thinness and body
dissatisfaction, mediated by appearance-related social comparisons. Hence, the study reported
here adds to a growing body of literature on the link between Instagram exposure and
psychological wellbeing.
In our sample, younger participants spent more time on Instagram, and engaged in
higher levels of social comparison. Although our sample was restricted to a young adult to
adult demographic (i.e., age 18 to 35 years), these findings suggest that Instagram use could
pose an even higher risk to psychological wellbeing in adolescents. For example, previous
research has demonstrated that social comparison behaviour on Facebook has negative
mental health effects among adolescents (Krayer, Ingledew, & Iphofen, 2007). However,
research on the effects of Instagram use among different age groups is limited. Nevertheless,
a recent study (Nesi & Prinstein, 2015) found that adolescents who engaged in technology
based social comparison (i.e., using Facebook and Instagram) and increased feedback seeking
behaviour, experienced more depressive symptoms one year on. Gender and popularity were
moderators of this effect, whereby females and less popular students expressed the highest
rates of depressive symptoms. This also implies that the use of these media are causing, to
some extent, the change in psychological wellbeing, rather than (or perhaps, in addition to)
users selecting these sites because of low pre-existing psychological wellbeing.
In this study, we showed that number of followers also correlated with the range of
psychological wellbeing variables. Since Facebook and Instagram users are likely to share
positive and idealistic portrayals of themselves, teenagers may feel they are ‘missing out’ or
‘everyone is doing better’ than themselves when making social comparisons on line. This
seems to relate to the extent to which individuals follow others who are unknown to them,
with Chou and Edge (2012) showing that those who used Facebook for longer, and who
followed more strangers, agreed more that others had better lives. These negative outcomes
may be larger for teenagers who are less popular than their peers (Nesi & Prinstein, 2015).
Finally, while the aim of this research was to explore the effects of Instagram use on
female psychological wellbeing, males are also prone to body dissatisfaction after exposure
to idealised images (e.g., Galioto & Crowther, 2013; Hargreaves & Tiggeman, 2009), and
social comparison can also mediate the link between social media use and depressive
symptoms in men (Steers et al., 2014). Hence, it is worthwhile for future research to address
the outcomes of excessive Instagram use in both adolescent samples and in males, including
long-term impact.
Effects of Image Exposure on Change in Psychological Wellbeing
In order to further explore the effects of Instagram use on mental health outcomes, we
exposed participants Instagram posts in three conditions: fitness, beauty, travel; or no images
(in a control condition). Unlike Tiggemann and Zaccardo (2015), we found no decrease in
self-esteem or increase in physical appearance anxiety. There are several possible reasons for
this, potentially relating to presentation style. Firstly, in Tiggeman and Zaccardo’s (2015)
research, participants were exposed to 18 images. Here, participants were exposed to only 10
images. It is possible this exposure was not sufficient to induce the decrease in self-esteem, or
the increase in physical appearance anxiety that was observed by Tiggemann and Zaccardo
(2015). On the other hand, social comparison theory would suggest that upwards social
comparisons would have a greater effect if comparison targets are similar to oneself
(Festinger, 1954). Participants may not have felt sufficiently engaged with these images
because the comparison targets were too dissimilar to them. However, brief exposure to these
images did decrease self-rated attractiveness, implying that participants engaged in a re-
evaluation of their notion of ‘average’ attractiveness and rated themselves accordingly. Since
Instagram images are typically ‘ideal’ images, this leads to a contrast effect in which
individuals rate themselves as less attractive (Gutierres, Kenrick, & Partch, 1999). It is
possible that chronic exposure to these images due to excessive use of Instagram, and the
subsequent reconsideration of one’s self-rated attractiveness would lead to more worrying
changes in physical appearance anxiety, body image disturbance, and self-esteem. The results
of part 1 support this assertion, since self-rated attractiveness correlated with each
psychological wellbeing variable, and further, spending longer on Instagram each day
correlated with every psychological wellbeing variable measured.
Post-hoc correlations for the beauty and fitness groups also revealed that the decrease
in self-rated physical attractiveness was significantly related to all other psychological
wellbeing measures. Thus, those with higher levels of depressive symptoms, lower self-
esteem, higher anxiety, and lower body image satisfaction, showed greater decreases in self-
rated physical attractiveness after exposure to beauty and fitness images. Thus, while we did
not observe a decrease in self-esteem or physical appearance anxiety after exposure to beauty
and fitness images in this sample, there is still reason to believe that excessive exposure to
idealised images on Instagram could have negative psychological outcomes. These results
add to the growing body of literature on the effects of exposure to idealised images on
Instagram on psychological wellbeing. If chronic exposure can lead to long-term changes in
psychological wellbeing, then this has implications for both interventions regarding, and
education surrounding, safe social-media use, particularly for adolescents.
While we completed this study in an online survey platform, future research should
investigate the effects of exposure to idealised images in different presentation formats. For
example, Vogel et al. (2014) created fake Facebook profiles and found exposure to
individuals who appeared fit, healthy and attractive, resulted in lower self-esteem among
participants. The complexity of these profiles may have increased their believability, and thus
the tendency for participants to engage in social comparison behaviour, leading to a
significant decrease in their self-esteem. In addition, viewing real Facebook profiles of
physically attractive users has been found to trigger poorer self-perceived attractiveness
(Haferkamp & Kramer, 2011), and other experimental methods requiring participants to use
Facebook for 20 minutes in a laboratory setting, revealed state anxiety to be a risk factor for
disordered eating (Mabe, Forney & Keel, 2014). Presentation format is potentially important,
since Wan, Ansons, Chattopadhyay, and Leboe (2013) found that asking women to view
some photographs of other women and rate their attractiveness, led to increases, rather than
decreases in self-evaluations. This was in contrast to a condition in which women were asked
to rate the suitability of the sunglasses worn by the models in the photographs, which led to a
decrease in self-evaluations. In our experiment, the content presented were single Instagram
images, on a platform designed for survey data collection, and not via the Instagram
application. While this led to a decrease in self-rated attractiveness, increasing the
believability of these images as genuine social media posts in future research, perhaps by
presenting them in a real Instagram account, will likely reveal changes in psychological
wellbeing that are closer to those which occur during daily SNS use. Further, exploring the
specific content of Instagram posts, which may activate different psychological defense
mechanisms, would also help to clarify the extent to which exposure to Instagram is linked
with wellbeing.
General Discussion
The significant relationship between Instagram use and the psychological outcomes
measured in part one of our study, as well as the decrease in self-rated physical attractiveness
after exposure to beauty and fitness images in part two of our study, is in line with the wealth
of research on the links between Facebook use and psychological outcomes, and the
emerging literature on the links between Instagram use and psychological outcomes. This
research implies that excessive exposure to Instagram can be damaging to users, especially
when they engage in negative social comparisons. Exposure to content of idealistic beauty
and fitness standards could be harmful in the long-term, considering the achievement of many
of these ideals is unrealistic. This may be of particular importance in adolescents, who are
heavy users of social media, and engage in more social comparisons than do older adults.
Despite some limitations, this study is important as it demonstrated a link between
time spent on Instagram and a wide range of psychological wellbeing variables, which has
not been explored extensively in the literature. Further, it implies that even brief exposure to
idealistic images can result in re-evaluations of self-rated attractiveness, and therefore that
chronic exposure may lead to more long-term changes in psychological wellbeing. Increased
awareness of the impact of social comparisons on social media can be helpful to
understanding the psychological wellbeing of young females who may be struggling to
establish their identity, and may seek out comparison material on SNS’s (see Shapiro &
Morgolin, 2014, for discussion). Our study complements research showing that excessive
social media use can have an effect on psychological wellbeing. Given Instagram’s
popularity, it is unrealistic to expect individual’s to cease use of the application. Therefore,
research should focus on developing guidelines that outline the potential risks associated with
excessive Instagram (and other social media) use. Providing users with more information
about how their comparisons may moderate the effect of social media use on psychological
wellbeing may help users make more informed choices. Further research examining other
moderating or protective factors would therefore be valuable.
Funding: This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public,
commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
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Tables and Figures
Table 1. Descriptive statistics for each scale, plus correlations between scales.
Descriptive Statistics
M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1. Time spent on Instagram
2.65 1.65 ---
2. Number of accounts followed 7.06 2.69 0.58** ---
3. Number of followers 6.97 2.43 0.53** 0.77** ---
4. Depressive symptoms 22.65 12.77 0.49** 0.21* 0.22* ---
5. Trait anxiety 49.88 11.93 0.42** 0.30** 0.28** 0.81** ---
6. Physical appearance anxiety 41.55 13.47 0.47** 0.29** 0.16 0.48** 0.59** ---
7. Body image disturbance 16.91 6.62 0.33** 0.26* 0.16 0.48** 0.63** 0.64** ---
8. Self-rated attractiveness 8.21 2.91 -0.11 -0.05 0.11 -0.26** -0.49** -0.48** -0.56** ---
9. Self-esteem 59.91 17.77 -0.47** -0.24** -0.18* -0.74** -0.84** -075** -0.65** 0.55** ---
10. Social comparison 40.17 7.22 0.42** 0.25** 0.15 0.43** 0.59** 0.57** 0.43** -0.28** -0.62**
Note: **p<.01, *p<.05
Table 2. Correlations between change in self-rated attractiveness after exposure to beauty or
fitness images and psychological wellbeing measures.
Change in self-rated appearance
Trait anxiety -0.32*
Physical appearance
Body image
Self-esteem 0.51**
Social comparison -0.33*
**p<.01, *p<.05
Figure 1. Stimulus example.
Figure 2. Mediation models including coefficient weights and model effect sizes for the
relationship between Instagram use and psychological wellbeing outcomes. Dotted lines
show coefficient weights for the direct relationship prior to mediation by social comparison.
*p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001.
Time on
Instagram Depressive
B = .46***, se = .14
B = 1.74***, se = .38
B = 2.57***, se = .66
B = 3.38***, se = .64
Mediation effect size = 0.81, p < .01; n = 128
Total model F(3,124) = 20.24, p < .001, R2 = 0.57
Time on
Instagram Self-esteem
B = -4.59***, se = .90
B = 1.74***, se = .38
B = -2.45*, se = .83
B = -4.59***, se = .89
Mediation effect size = .25, p < .001; n = 128
Total model F(3, 124) = 34.39, p < .001, R2 = 0.67
Time on
Instagram Trait Anxiety
B = .77***, se = .14
B = 1.97***, se = .43
B = .79, se = .65
B = 2.32***, se = .670
Mediation effect size = 1.53, p < .001; n = 95
Total model F(3, 91) = 24.93, p < .001, R2 = 0.67
Time on
B = .0.85***, se = .14
B = .1.73***, se = .38
B = 2.70***, se = .66
B = .4.17***, se = .69
Mediation effect size = 1.47, p < .001; n = 127
Total model F(3, 123) = 28.27, p < .001, R2 = 0.64
Time on
Body image
B = .37***, se = .096
B = 1.74***, se = .38
B = .67, se = .37
B = 1.24***, se = .36
Mediation effect size = 0.56, p < .01; n = 128
Total model F(3, 124) = 10.99, p < .001, R2 = 0.46
... General media influence has been shown to strongly associate with internalization of thin body ideal, and this link is stronger than BD's association with peer and parent influence [7]. As SM has the potential to combine general media influence with peer effects, it is not surprising that higher BD correlates with self-reported SM usage time [2,8,9]. Moreover, studying specific SM apps-which likely differ in the level they engage the user [10,11]-could provide more insight into which type of media affects users' body image the most. ...
... One such application is Instagram which is largely an image-based platform. Studies have linked self-reported Instagram use duration and frequency to higher BD [8,9]. In a recent study, Fioravanti et al. [12] found that self-reported problematic Instagram use predicted more appearance comparison, which, in turn, predicted higher BD, potentially leading to increased ED symptomatology. ...
... Additionally, women with an ED diagnosis history were compared in these variables with women without this psychopathology history. Although previous research has demonstrated the link between more Instagram use and higher ED symptomatology and BD [8,9,12], these works have relied on self-assessed Instagram use. The present work enriches these findings by including tracked smartphone and Instagram data for comparison. ...
Full-text available
Background Previous research has linked smartphone and Instagram use to higher body dissatisfaction (BD) as well as eating disorder (ED) symptomatology. However, these studies have typically been limited to using self-report measures for technology use which, as shown by scientific literature, might not be reliable. In the present work, we combine self-reported assessments as well as tracked smartphone and Instagram use. Methods The effective sample comprised N = 119 women (34 with ED diagnosis history) who were queried about BD and ED symptomatology, and who provided the data about their smartphone and Instagram use duration for each day of the previous week. Results The study results show that women with an ED diagnosis history scored higher on both BD as well as ED scales. Although women with an ED diagnosis history had higher smartphone screen time, there were no statistically significant differences in Instagram screen time. Tracked smartphone use duration was positively correlated with both BD and ED symptomatology, but the role of Instagram use needs to be further elucidated. Conclusions The results of this study show that while BD and ED symptomatology are correlated with smartphone use, it may be that Instagram use is not the main contributor to that relationship.
... The negative effects of AI algorithms can generate harmful effects that may impact the users' attitudes, behaviors, and well-being [6,32]. Concerning adolescents' body image, filter bubbles can shape young users' exposure to idealistic body images affecting their perceptions of a healthy body [10,14] and potentially lead to lower body satisfaction [5]. ...
Social Media Artificial Intelligence algorithms provide users with engaging and personalized content. Yet, the personalization of algorithms may have a negative impact on users who lack AI literacy. The limited understanding of SM algorithms among the population suggest that adolescents are more likely to place blind trust in the information they consume, exposing them to negative consequences (misinformation, filter bubbles and echo chambers). We therefore propose an intervention with a narrative scripts approach to raise awareness of AI algorithms in SM. To foster an authentic learning experience and question adolescents’ trust in AI, we deploy a low-accuracy AI image classifier. A quasi-experimental study was conducted among 144 high-school students in Barcelona, Spain. The results show that the narrative scripts intervention improved students’ awareness of SM algorithms and shaped more critical attitudes towards them. A comparison of students’ choices between human predictions and those produced by a low-accuracy AI classifier shows a lack of AI overdependence. Information about predictions’ source did not affect students’ trust or learning about AI. These findings contribute towards SM algorithms education and share insight into the effect of deploying low-accuracy detectors in learning technology interventions.KeywordsSocial media algorithms educationLow-accuracy image classificationAdolescents AI trustAI overdependence
... First, the extent of Instagram use did not seem to moderate these effects. Previous work has shown that the frequency of Instagram use seems to correlate with lower body dissatisfaction (Couture Bue, 2020;Engeln et al., 2020;Sherlock & Wagstaff, 2018;Trifiro & Prena, 2021) suggesting a priori that greater use may mean an intervention was less effective as it has a greater detriment to overcome. However, that did not seem to be the case. ...
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Instagram is a hugely popular social media website; however, research has suggested that continued use of the site may lead to increased body dissatisfaction and lower body esteem. Materials intended to reduce these effects are available, but these often focus more on thinness and are intended for use by females. Male users tend to focus more on muscularity and leanness, and so these materials may not fully address male body image issues. In this paper, we created and tested materials intended to address this gap. These materials used two principles; media literacy, which educates users about the veracity of the images they see, and cognitive restructuring, which trains user to recognise unfavourable social comparisons they may make about themselves. Across two experimental studies (study 1 N = 192; study 2 N = 301), we found these materials were effective. Participants reported greater body image esteem, and lower body dissatisfaction after viewing materials. Moreover, they seemed to operate on increasing scepticism regarding the realism of images on social media. Narcissism as an individual difference moderated these effects, showing that high narcissism precluded the need for intervention because such individuals were unaffected by Instagram exposure. Ideas for future studies, including a forthcoming longitudinal examination of these effects are then discussed.
... While there are many benefits to increased socialization opportunities over the internet, social media use has been linked to several negative consequences regarding mental health. Amongst the general population of adults, social media has been associated with increased symptoms of anxiety, depression, dissatisfaction with one's body, and lowered self-esteem (Sherlock & Wagstaff, 2019). Additionally, internet use can become addicting and maladaptive, which may lead to negative consequences on one's mood and other important areas of life (Andreassen et al., 2017). ...
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Many autistic adults report preference for computer-mediated communication and social media use. Despite many benefits to online socialization, there are many challenges including anxiety and cyber-victimization. To date, support is limited related to helping autistic adults with safe and effective internet use. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of the novel SELFI program. This pilot study utilized a randomized controlled trial design. A total of 25 autistic adults enrolled in the study and were randomized to the nine-week SELFI program or a waitlist control condition. Feasibility assessed enrollment, attrition, and fidelity of delivery. Acceptability examined attendance and feedback from participants and peer mentors. Efficacy evaluated change in Facebook activity, social media utility/anxiety, and individualized goals. Regarding feasibility, the recruitment goal was met within one month, there was limited attrition, and therapists delivered the program with high fidelity. Participants attended a majority of scheduled sessions and feedback from participants reflected high levels of agreement with several facets of the program. Compared to the control group, more participants assigned to the SELFI condition were perceived by autistic and non-autistic raters as having improved Facebook activity. SELFI participants also reported reduced difficulty meeting their individualized goal. Findings support the piloted SELFI program as feasible and acceptable with signals of preliminary efficacy. This study establishes an exciting foundation regarding an innovative social media skills program, however more research is necessary.
... Instagram fotoğraflarını belirlemek amacıyla Qualtrics aracılığıyla bir pilot çalışma yapılmıştır. Bunun için alanyazında sık kullanılan bir yöntem izlenerek (örn., Cohen, Newton-John ve Robinson ve ark., 2017;Sherlock ve Wagstaff, 2018;Slater, Varsani ve Diedrichs, 2017;Tiggemann, ve Zaccardo, 2015) Instagram'da kamuya açık fotoğraflardan 100'er adet idealize beden (Şekil 1), şişman beden (Şekil 2) ve uzay (Şekil 3) içerikli fotoğraf alınmıştır. Instagram Kullanım Sözleşmesi, kamuya açık fotoğrafların bilimsel ve eğitimsel amaçlarla kullanımına izin vermektedir (Instagram, 2018). ...
Full-text available
z Bu çalışmanın amacı, 18 ve 25 yaş aralığındaki üniversite öğrencilerinin Instagram kullanımları ile kendini nesneleştirme, diğerlerini nesneleştirme ve kilo damgalaması düzeyleri arasındaki ilişkiyi incelemektir. Alanyazındaki sosyal medya konulu çalış-maların çoğunlukla korelatif çalışmalar oldukları ve bu nedenle neden-sonuç çıkarı-mına imkân sağlamadıkları görülmüştür. Bu eksikliği gidermek amacıyla mevcut ça-lışmada hem korelatif hem de deneysel yöntemler kullanılmıştır. Biri korelatif (N=104) ve ikisi deneysel (sırasıyla N=70 ve N=80) olmak üzere üç çalışma gerçek-leştirilmiştir. İlk çalışmada katılımcıların günlük Instagram kullanım sıklıkları, ken-dini nesneleştirme, diğerlerini nesneleştirme ve kilo damgalaması düzeyleri incelen-miştir. Instagram kullanım sıklığı arttıkça kendini nesneleştirme ve diğerlerini nesne-leştirme düzeylerinin de arttığı görülmüştür. İkinci ve üçüncü çalışmalarda ise katı-lımcılar, seçkisiz olarak atandıkları gruplarda farklı Instagram fotoğraflarına maruz bırakılmışlar (idealize beden, şişman beden ve uzay) ve bunun kendini nesneleştirme (Çalışma 2), diğerlerini nesneleştirme (Çalışma 3) ve kilo damgalaması düzeylerine olan etkisi incelenmiştir. Bulgulara göre Instagram fotoğraflarına maruz kalmak, di
... Although there is the potential for positive outcomes regarding social media use, there are many challenges associated with being active online. Social media use amongst the general adult population has been associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety, body dissatisfaction and reduced self-esteem (Sherlock and Wagstaff, 2019). Additionally, increased social media use may lead to addiction, which may negatively impact mood and other important life areas (Andreassen et al., 2017). ...
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to describe the development and pilot of a novel program to support autistic adults with social media use. Social media use among autistic adults has been associated with increased happiness and closer friendships. However, autistic adults are at risk of social media challenges such as cyber-victimization. To date, no programs exist that specifically support autistic adults with safe and effective social media use. The primary aim of this study was to develop and pilot test a novel social media skills program for feasibility and acceptability. A secondary aim was to explore changes in Facebook activity as a proxy for online social engagement. Design/methodology/approach The socialization, education and learning for the internet (SELFI) program was developed by identifying relevant target skills, goals, considerations and evidence-based strategies to help autistic adults with online social communication. The developed SELFI program was then pilot tested with six autistic male young adults to explore initial feasibility (fidelity of delivery, attendance) and acceptability (attrition, enjoyment and programmatic feedback). Facebook data were collected to explore differences in the frequency of likes/reactions, comments and posts after completion of the program. Findings Each participant completed all procedures and attended every session. There was no attrition from the program. The average fidelity score for recorded sessions was 85.1%. Most participants endorsed agreement with program enjoyment and that it helped them maintain current relationships. Participant feedback provided valuable information regarding areas of strength and areas that needed improvement. Each participant who completed the study demonstrated increased Facebook engagement across likes/reactions, comments and posts. Research limitations/implications Limitations include a small all-male sample, exclusion of adults with intellectual disabilities and adolescents and dependence on Facebook data. Additionally, the developed program did not incorporate feedback from relevant stakeholders, including autistic adults. Originality/value To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is one of the first studies to explore support for autistic adults specifically related to social media use.
... These include sites which allow interaction through web 2.0 and 3.0 sites including sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, online gaming, YouTube etc. Their usage has expanded exponentially as they act as viable portals of entertainment. [4][5][6] Mental health is characterised as a state of well-being in which people are aware of their capacities, successfully navigate through daily challenges, perform well at work, and significantly improve the quality of life in their communities. The advantages and drawbacks of social media for mental health are currently being discussed. ...
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Background: Social media is a form of electronic communication, through which people can share ideas and information. With the advent of internet and social networking sites, humans have become social more virtually than in person. This has led to people living more isolated lives affecting one’s health. Hence the objective is to assess the effects of social media on students and factors associated. Methods: It was a Cross sectional study among 367 undergraduates from a medical college in Mysuru, over a duration of 2 months. A self-administered questionnaire with socio- demographic variables and a standard GHQ-12 (general health questionnaire) was used for the scoring of their distress levels. Descriptive statistics were taken and Chi-square test was done for statistical significance. Results: Out of 367 students, the mean age of students were 21.5 years. The prevalence suggestive of distress was found to be 72.4% (265), and severe psychological distress was found to be 3.27%. Among usage of apps, people using 1 app had 48.5% distress, 2 apps had 75.6% distress, 3 apps had 63.3% distress and 4 apps 74.2% distress. There was no significant association between factors and severity of distress. Conclusions: From the above study, we have shown that social media with all its influence has a negative impact on the students’ behavior. With this the youth need to be educated on its use and its limitations counselled regarding its ill effects and necessary tolls for seeking help be made available at their disposal.
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La imagen corporal varía a lo largo de la vida. Los cambios físicos que conlleva la adolescencia pueden influir en el desarrollo de conductas de riesgo para trastornos alimentarios. Aunque los factores sociales y culturales afectan la imagen corporal, las formas de interacción modernas, mediante el uso de tecnología, en particular las redes sociales, permiten controlar la autopresentación de la imagen corporal en las fotografías que son publicadas, lo que podría servir como indicador de conductas de riesgo alimentarias. El objetivo de este trabajo fue establecer la asociación de conductas alimentarias de riesgo con el control de la imagen corporal en fotografías, para analizar su invarianza factorial por sexo y proponer puntos de corte en población mexicana. La muestra estuvo conformada por 1 155 adolescentes (51.3 % hombres y 48.7 % mujeres), con una media de edad de 15.18 años. Se utilizó el cuestionario en español sobre el control de la imagen corporal en fotografías denominado BICP-S, además del cuestionario de conductas alimentarias de riesgo (CAR). Los resultados evidenciaron una relación entre las conductas alimentarias de riesgo y el control de la imagen en fotografías. La estructura factorial del BICP-S varía en función del sexo, por lo que se proponen diferentes puntos de corte del cuestionario, en donde aquellas ubicadas en el percentil 85 indican riesgo acerca de las preocupaciones por la imagen corporal en mujeres, mientras que en hombres se establece en el percentil 92, con una alta confiabilidad en el control de la imagen en ambos sexos (a > 0.90). El cuestionario tiene utilidad clínica para la detección de jóvenes con serias preocupaciones en torno a la imagen corporal que, de continuar, pueden constituirse en un factor de riesgo para trastornos de la conducta alimentaria.
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Objective: Review the available scientific literature on the relationship between the use of social networks and risk factors for the development of eating disorders, such as low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction and/or idealization of thinness, in the Spanish population. Design: A systematic review of scientific literature published between 2010 and 2022 was carried out. Data sources: PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science. Selection of studies: Only original articles were included, published in Spanish or English, that measured at least one variable of use of social networks and at least one risk factor for eating disorders in the Spanish population. Data extraction: The PRISMA 2009 statement was used as a guide. The quality of selected articles was assessed using the Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Checklist. Results: Twelve cross-sectional studies that met the inclusion criteria were identified. Evidence suggests that the use and frequency of use of social networks is significantly associated with body dissatisfaction (p≤0,01), drive for thinness (p≤0,001), and low self-esteem (p≤0,05) in adolescents and young adults in the Spanish population. Conclusions: Users of social networks, mainly those based on images, are exposed to factors that could increase their risk of developing an eating disorder.
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Purpose: Social media use is ever increasing amongst young adults and has previously been shown to have negative effects on body image, depression, social comparison, and disordered eating. One eating disorder of interest in this context is orthorexia nervosa, an obsession with eating healthily. High orthorexia nervosa prevalence has been found in populations who take an active interest in their health and body and is frequently comorbid with anorexia nervosa. Here, we investigate links between social media use, in particularly Instagram and orthorexia nervosa symptoms. Methods: We conducted an online survey of social media users (N = 680) following health food accounts. We assessed their social media use, eating behaviours, and orthorexia nervosa symptoms using the ORTO-15 inventory. Results: Higher Instagram use was associated with a greater tendency towards orthorexia nervosa, with no other social media channel having this effect. In exploratory analyses Twitter showed a small positive association with orthorexia symptoms. BMI and age had no association with orthorexia nervosa. The prevalence of orthorexia nervosa among the study population was 49%, which is significantly higher than the general population (<1%). Conclusions: Our results suggest that the healthy eating community on Instagram has a high prevalence of orthorexia symptoms, with higher Instagram use being linked to increased symptoms. These findings highlight the implications social media can have on psychological wellbeing, and the influence social media 'celebrities' may have over hundreds of thousands of individuals. These results may also have clinical implications for eating disorder development and recovery.
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As the use and influence of social networking continues to grow, researchers have begun to explore its consequences for psychological well-being. Some research suggests that Facebook use can have negative consequences for well-being. Instagram, a photo-sharing social network created in 2010, has particular characteristics that may make users susceptible to negative consequences. This study tested a theoretically grounded moderated meditation model of the association between Instagram use and depressive symptoms through the mechanism of negative social comparison, and moderation by amount of strangers one follows. One hundred and seventeen 18-29 year olds completed online questionnaires containing demographics, frequency of Instagram use, amount of strangers followed on Instagram, the Center for Epidemiological Resources Scale for Depression, and the Social Comparison Rating Scale. Instagram use was marginally positively associated with depressive symptoms, and positive social comparison was significantly negatively associated with depressive symptoms. Amount of strangers followed moderated the associations of Instagram use with social comparison (significantly) and depressive symptoms (marginally), and further significantly moderated the indirect association of Instagram use with depressive symptoms through social comparison. Findings generally suggest that more frequent Instagram use has negative associations for people who follow more strangers, but positive associations for people who follow fewer strangers, with social comparison and depressive symptoms. Implications of negative associations of social networking for people who follow strangers and the need for more research on Instagram use given its increasing popularity are explored.
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Social networking sites (SNSs), such as Facebook, provide abundant social comparison opportunities. Given the widespread use of SNSs, the purpose of the present set of studies was to examine the impact of chronic and temporary exposure to social media-based social comparison information on self-esteem. Using a correlational approach, Study 1 examined whether frequent Facebook use is associated with lower trait self-esteem. Indeed, the results showed that participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media. Using an experimental approach, Study 2 examined the impact of temporary exposure to social media profiles on state self-esteem and relative self-evaluations. The results revealed that participants’ state self-esteem and relative self-evaluations were lower when the target person’s profile contained upward comparison information (e.g., a high activity social network, healthy habits) than when the target person’s profile contained downward comparison information (e.g., a low activity social network, unhealthy habits). Results are discussed in terms of extant research and their implications for the role of social media in well-being.
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This study examined specific technology-based behaviors (social comparison and interpersonal feedback-seeking) that may interact with offline individual characteristics to predict concurrent depressive symptoms among adolescents. A total of 619 students (57 % female; mean age 14.6) completed self-report questionnaires at 2 time points. Adolescents reported on levels of depressive symptoms at baseline, and 1 year later on depressive symptoms, frequency of technology use (cell phones, Facebook, and Instagram), excessive reassurance-seeking, and technology-based social comparison and feedback-seeking. Adolescents also completed sociometric nominations of popularity. Consistent with hypotheses, technology-based social comparison and feedback-seeking were associated with depressive symptoms. Popularity and gender served as moderators of this effect, such that the association was particularly strong among females and adolescents low in popularity. Associations were found above and beyond the effects of overall frequency of technology use, offline excessive reassurance-seeking, and prior depressive symptoms. Findings highlight the utility of examining the psychological implications of adolescents' technology use within the framework of existing interpersonal models of adolescent depression and suggest the importance of more nuanced approaches to the study of adolescents' media use.
Similar to effects identified with traditional media forms, recent evidence indicates that body image concerns, such as body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness, may also be associated with exposure to images on Social Networking Sites. Utilizing social comparison theory, the current study sought to examine the relationship between female university students’ photo-based activities on Instagram, which is a relatively new Social Networking Site, appearance-related comparisons, and two outcome variables: drive for thinness and body dissatisfaction. Mediational analyses using bootstrapping methods indicated that Instagram photo-based activities positively predicted both drive for thinness and body dissatisfaction through the mediating variable of appearance-related comparisons. These results suggest that Instagram use could be potentially harmful to individuals who find themselves frequently engaging in comparisons with others. Additionally, utilizing the intrasexual competition framework, the second aim of this study was to determine whether individual differences in competitiveness for mates influenced individual tendencies to engage in appearance-related comparisons on Instagram. A significant positive relationship emerged between intrasexual competitiveness for mates and appearance-related comparisons on Instagram. Theoretical and applied implications from these findings are discussed.
A large body of research has documented that exposure to images of thin fashion models contributes to women's body dissatisfaction. The present study aimed to experimentally investigate the impact of attractive celebrity and peer images on women's body image. Participants were 138 female undergraduate students who were randomly assigned to view either a set of celebrity images, a set of equally attractive unknown peer images, or a control set of travel images. All images were sourced from public Instagram profiles. Results showed that exposure to celebrity and peer images increased negative mood and body dissatisfaction relative to travel images, with no significant difference between celebrity and peer images. This effect was mediated by state appearance comparison. In addition, celebrity worship moderated an increased effect of celebrity images on body dissatisfaction. It was concluded that exposure to attractive celebrity and peer images can be detrimental to women's body image.
People often compare themselves to others to gain a better understanding of the self in a process known as social comparison. The current study discusses how people engage in a social comparison process on Facebook, and how observing content from their Facebook friends may affect their emotions. A 2 (comparison direction) × 2 (relational closeness) × 2 (self-esteem) between-subjects experiment was conducted with 163 adult participants. The results revealed a significant 3-way interaction such that people with high self-esteem would be happier receiving positive information than negative information from their close friends, but the effect would be the opposite if the information was from a distant friend. There was no such difference for people with low self-esteem.
‘Fitspiration’ is an online trend designed to inspire viewers towards a healthier lifestyle by promoting exercise and healthy food. This study provides a content analysis of fitspiration imagery on the social networking site Instagram. A set of 600 images were coded for body type, activity, objectification and textual elements. Results showed that the majority of images of women contained only one body type: thin and toned. In addition, most images contained objectifying elements. Accordingly, while fitspiration images may be inspirational for viewers, they also contain a number of elements likely to have negative effects on the viewer’s body image.
Fitspiration is an online trend designed to inspire viewers towards a healthier lifestyle by promoting exercise and healthy food. The present study aimed to experimentally investigate the impact of fitspiration images on women's body image. Participants were 130 female undergraduate students who were randomly assigned to view either a set of Instagram fitspiration images or a control set of travel images presented on an iPad. Results showed that acute exposure to fitspiration images led to increased negative mood and body dissatisfaction and decreased state appearance self-esteem relative to travel images. Importantly, regression analyses showed that the effects of image type were mediated by state appearance comparison. Thus it was concluded that fitspiration can have negative unintended consequences for body image. The results offer support to general sociocultural models of media effects on body image, and extend these to "new" media. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.