Dear carnivores: It’s time to get over yourself.
At least, that’s the message from an unfortunate new study out of the University of British Columbia, which finds that teen girls who spend much of their time on Instagram have much higher body dissatisfaction.
“We found that girls with high self-esteem are more likely to turn to the social media platform Instagram,” said researcher Miranda Cicero, a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia. “It was one of the few social media platforms where girls viewed themselves as thinner and saw themselves as getting compliments about their appearance.”
In contrast, those who have low self-esteem were more likely to log on to Facebook.
The purpose of the study was to get a handle on the growing number of adolescents engaging in full-body validation via social media. As a previous research effort from the university found, Instagram has become “a central hub for adolescent girls to exhibit their self-presentation and to engage in a continuous conversation about their body.”
In the new study, girls with higher body dissatisfaction also checked their Instagram feeds more frequently.
Followers of Instagram can share photos of themselves and any other posts, including selfies. Others can comment on the photos and re-post them to their own feeds. Liking a user’s photo helps generate likes for other users, and the more likes, the more appealing a photo is. An Instagram user’s “likes” count is calculated by rolling the number of likes into a single number.
Cicero and her colleagues surveyed 1,451 ninth-grade girls from several provinces in Canada. They also surveyed similar teenagers five years later to compare their different responses, body image and body image online.
In both rounds of interviews, the girls — who also were surveyed in 2012 and 2013 — were asked about how they evaluated their body image and self-esteem. They also told the researchers their past social media use. They were also asked if they intended to use Instagram in the future and were asked questions about a wide variety of food trends, including their diets, what they eat, and how and when they exercise.
They reported seeing six to seven hours of Instagram content every day on average. More than 60 percent of girls say that they or their friends share photos of themselves on Instagram or Facebook, and more than 60 percent of girls say they use Instagram to find out about beauty trends or to check out other girls’ photos.
The current findings suggest that body-image perceptions and Instagram use by teen girls are highly correlated. For example, those with low self-esteem were much more likely to check Instagram than girls with high self-esteem. Furthermore, the more posts a girl posted on Instagram — without using the popular filter called “boomerang” — the more self-reported body image deficits she had. This could indicate that her body images were being influenced by “self-presentation” on the platform.
While those details would be reassuring to some, there are still a lot of connections between social media and self-image which need to be carefully studied.
“We know that many other things, such as parent anxiety, poverty, poverty, the availability of inexpensive food, and even the amount of exercise involved in social media may play roles in these outcomes,” Cicero said.
She wants to see more research on how body image issues manifest and change from the internet age to the digital era. She’s also worried about body-image imbalances that may arise from the sheer number of users that Instagram now has. In 2018, the platform was used by more than 1 billion people per month.
“That was 10 times the number of users that Instagram saw in 2007,” Cicero said. “It’s not our intent to convey that this trend is happening in the U.S. specifically, but to put it in perspective.”
Cicero is an early adopter of Instagram.
“I do take photos often of myself, and sometimes include filters to make myself look more current,” she said. “And I still tell others about it too.”
Like so many teens these days, Cicero says she uses Instagram to help her feel better about herself.
“I can stay true to my side of things and with photos I can understand why other people’s images are so captivating,” she said. “It’s a