You are more than likely one of the 1.19 billion monthly active Facebook users.
Perhaps you have seen how others –and possibly yourself– have become infatuated with posting updates and photos of every moment of their life on the site. Has Facebook affected our self-image? Are we narcissistic?
A 2010 study at York University found that self-promotion on Facebook correlates with self-esteem in college students.
Your college years typically include some self-defining moments. The friends, the parties, the wonderful exams and projects *sarcasm*. With the rampant use of Facebook in this impressionable demographic, one’s self-perception can easily be influenced.
To find the extent of Facebook’s influence on college students, a group of social scientists at Penn State University conducted an examination that was one of the first of its kind: how Facebook usage is related to the psychological aspects of students’ lives. We’ve broken down the study into four easy-to-follow sections: Method, Measures, Results, and Implications. And we left plenty of room for your thoughts, too!
Students attending the not unambiguous “non-residential college near a large metropolitan area in the northeastern United States” (your guess is as good as mine) were invited to participate in the study and received enough money to purchase 200 packets of Ramen noodles. The hypotheses looked to link time and emotional investment with the user’s self-image.
Attitudes and behaviors towards Facebook and body image were measured using two scales: the Facebook Intensity scale and the Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire. It was quite fitting to use scales on a body image study. The variables for Facebook included number of friends, daily time spent, and attitude toward the social network. Appearance orientation and evaluation were the two body image variables.
There is enough meat in this study to feed a small army, as the results section goes on for a few pages, but we’ll serve you the finest slice. So, here’s your filet mignon: Individuals who were more emotionally invested in Facebook and spent less time on the network were more concerned with their appearance.
In a society that emphasizes the unrealistic ideals of thinness and sexiness for women and muscularity for men, college students are influenced to fit the ideal. As a very visual medium, Facebook allows users to carefully construct an image of themselves, although that virtual image may not resemble reality.
Therefore, the bridge between social capital and self-esteem is unsteady. Time spent on the site may not matter because the user’s concerns with looks will affect their behavior towards the network. Some of those concerned with their looks may limit their time on Facebook to protect their self-image while others may visit the site frequently to seek social comparisons.
What Do You Think?
Have you seen some examples of Facebook’s influence on body image?
What measures would you recommend to reduce its influence?
What are some other implications from this research?
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