Selfies: We all take them. But what you do after that initial “click” might indicate something deeper than your favorite angle — it could reveal how you perceive yourself.
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Putting a lot of time and energy into choosing, editing, and posting a selfie could mean that you have a negative view of your body, according to new research published this week in Computers in Human Behavior. The researchers behind that paper also discovered a link between greater investment in selfies and disordered eating among women.
Another paper, based on the same questionnaire, found that two specific social media activities were tied to the “drive for thinness” and concerns about body image: following celebrity or fitness accounts on Instagram and engaging the most with photos on Facebook.
In contrast, the researchers did not find a relationship between negative body image and following neutral accounts (e.g. those that are related to travel).
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The survey’s participants were 259 women, ranging from 18 to 29 years old and mostly white (a failure in diversity recognized by the researchers). While insightful, the questionnaire is just the beginning of further research delving into the connection between body image, self esteem, and social media.
“We’re starting to try to understand what people are actually doing that may be related to poor body image,” Amy Slater, author of the papers and a senior research psychologist at the University of West England in Bristol, told BuzzFeed News.
The ultimate goal of this type of research is to get people thinking about how they use social media, according to Slater. “If they’re following particular types of celebrities on Instagram, how is that making them feel about themselves?” she told BuzzFeed News.
“Are there other things they could be following, or other ways of presenting themselves, or interacting with people in this environment, that would make them feel good?”
Before you retire your selfie-taking for good, though, remember that selfies can also be a a powerful form of self-representation, and social media isn’t necessarily all bad. As this new research implies, social media is becoming where we live 24/7, and we need to start asking questions about how we behave there.