Instagram is often criticized for creating unrealistic body ideals, but a new study suggests our loved ones are more to blame than celebrities.
In experiments, participants reported feeling satisfied with their appearance when they saw other people’s social media posts throughout the day.
Researchers found that engaging with posts from friends and family is “more harmful” than engaging with content posted by celebrities and influencers.
It’s possible that a desirable body image from a celebrity may be perceived as less attainable, so we worry less about it than if it were of a friend or family member.
New research has found that social media use is linked to lower appearance satisfaction and engaging with posts from friends and family is more than twice as harmful as viewing content posted by celebrities (file photo).
SOCIAL MEDIA USE RELATED TO BODY IMAGE CONCERNS
A 2016 study found that social media use is linked to body image concerns and a greater risk for young adults of developing eating problems.
Experts from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that all demographic groups were equally affected by the connection between social media and concerns about diet and body image.
Lead author Jaime E. Sidani said, “Social media combines many of the visual aspects of traditional media with the ability for social media users to interact and promote stereotypes that can raise food and body image concerns.”
The experts used questionnaires asking about the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.
The study was led by scientists from Anglia Ruskin University in East Anglia and Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences in Austria and was published today in the journal Body Image.
“Image-centric social media platforms offer users unlimited opportunities to make negative comparisons and internalize ideals of appearance, which in turn leads to more negative body image outcomes,” said study author Professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University.
“Our study found that engaging with social media reduces satisfaction with appearance, regardless of who is posting the content.
“Interestingly, viewing content posted by friends and family had a significantly greater negative impact on satisfaction with appearance compared to content posted by celebrities and influencers.”
Social media use is increasingly associated with negative body image, but most research to date has involved lab tests or surveys rather than measuring people’s social media experiences as they occur.
For this, the researchers recruited 50 adults from Austria and Germany with an average age of 23 years, who gave daily feedback over a period of two weeks.
To record the impact of social media activity in real-time, participants had to use a wrist-worn wearable device.
This allowed them to indicate their satisfaction with their own appearance each time they engaged with social media content over the two weeks.
Participants reported spending time “actively” using social media (e.g., making Facebook posts, writing tweets, and sending WhatsApp messages) and “passively” using social media (e.g., .reading facebook posts and looking at snapchat pictures).
The image shows rating points for a single participant during the study period and across the time of day. Participants reported their satisfaction with appearance when they saw a familiar person (e.g., a friend) on social media and when they saw an unfamiliar person (e.g., a celebrity) on social media. They also reported appearance satisfaction at two random times each day (“reference score”).
Participants were instructed to press a button on the wearable once to see content from friends or family members, and twice for someone they didn’t know personally, such as a friend. B. a celebrity or influencer.
However, participants did not indicate which specific social media app they were using at any given time.
On average, participants used social media 73 minutes a day “actively” and 90 minutes a day “passively”.
The study also found that any form of social media engagement was significantly associated with lower satisfaction with appearance.
Even more surprising, exposure to content posted by people the participants knew was more than twice as harmful as viewing content posted by strangers such as influencers or celebrities.
Use of social media apps like Instagram is increasingly associated with negative body image (file photo).
“One possible explanation is that people perceive a post that represents looks to be much more attainable when it comes from someone they know, which puts a level of expectation or pressure on the person participating in the post ‘ said Professor Swami.
“At the same time, people may be more critical of posts by models and celebrities and therefore perceive the images they are sharing as less realistic.”
The authors say their findings support a growing body of evidence suggesting that social media use is strongly associated with “negative body image outcomes.”
“Given these findings, practitioners may find it useful to consider levels of social media engagement when working to improve body satisfaction among individuals and populations,” they conclude in their paper.
The study follows other research published this week by the University of Glasgow which found that women avoid viewing Instagram images that “reflect their own areas of insecurity”.
The Glasgow researchers studied the participants’ eye movements as they viewed a series of Instagram images of other women’s faces and bodies of different sizes.
Participants paid more attention to other women’s bodies than their faces and preferred images of underweight and average women over overweight women.
WE SPEND ALMOST A THIRD OF OUR waking hours ON OUR SMARTPHONE, RESEARCH SHOWS
According to research, for the past year people have been spending a staggering 4.8 hours a day, or nearly a third of their waking time, on their phones.
App Annie’s State of Mobile report found that consumers worldwide spent a record 3.8 trillion hours on cell phones in 2021.
In the UK, the average time spent on phones per day in 2021 was four hours, less than the global average of 4.8 hours for the year.
But mobile usage in the UK has increased from three hours a day in 2019 to 3.7 hours a day in 2020.
Overall, 2021 was “record-breaking” as consumers continue to embrace mobile lifestyles and move away from big screens, the company said.
Specifically, usage of Chinese video-sharing app TikTok saw a 90 percent increase globally compared to 2020 excluding China.