New research suggests young women commonly compare their appearance to images found in magazines and on Facebook.
Experts believe this is evidence that although the media is often vilified for objectifying women, women further diminish themselves by constantly comparing their bodies to others’.
The new Australian study finds that regardless of how much time young women devote to viewing television, music videos and using the Internet, they will compare their appearances more frequently to photos in magazines and on Facebook.
Findings have been published in a new paper found in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly.
“Our research shows that spending more time reading magazines and on Facebook is associated with greater self-objectification among young women and these relationships are influenced by women’s tendency to compare their appearance to others, particularly to peers on Facebook,” the researchers commented.
Surveying 150 female college students and staff ages 17-25, researcher and doctoral candidate Jasmine Fardouly of the University of New South Wales also found the following connections between type of media, comparing the way women look, and self-objectification:
- Magazines, though significantly related to self-objectification, are infrequently read by women;
- On average, the women spent about two hours a day on Facebook, accounting for 40 percent of daily internet use, and check the site every few hours;
- Facebook users compare their appearance most often to their own images, then to those of their peers, and rarely to images of family members and celebrities.
The behavior can be detrimental and is discouraged.
Experts explain the finding by surmising that unlike TV and music videos, on Facebook, users can compare pictures of themselves with their peers or past images of themselves.
The researchers also note that self-comparisons may lead to greater self-objectification for women as they look at themselves literally as an observer.
They wrote, “Furthermore, self-comparisons to images of a previous self might engender a greater focus on specific body parts, also contributing to self-objectification.”
To help young women stop comparing themselves and promote wellness, the researchers recommend that young women post fewer images of themselves on Facebook and follow people on Facebook who post photos less frequently.
The researchers continued, “This was one of the first studies which shows that appearance comparisons partially account for the relationship between media usage and self-objectification.
Young women report spending long periods of time on Facebook and this research highlights some of the potential negative influences that Facebook may have on how young women view their body.”
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I definitely see this happening, likely because I’m a frequent user of Facebook. I absolutely see the connection, but I don’t think that it’s simply in the nature of young women to compare themselves detrimentally to other women. I believe that the nature of our society, or rather how we nurture young girls, leave them vulnerable to this. Sites like Facebook are especially geared towards this–you have to be the prettiest, have the most friends, have the best pictures, have the most likes and comments. It’s a pressure cooker for people with pretty or popular friends who get more of a reaction than they do. And when that happens the girls start feeling like they receive less of a reaction because they’re less attractive or at least perceived as such.
However, I don’t think we can really blame social media for it. I think the problem is broader culture that teaches young girls and women that their value is directly linked to their attractiveness. There’s nothing wrong with perceiving someone else as more attractive, the problem comes in where you perceive yourself as less valuable because you’re less attractive. We can do better in helping these young women. We have to.
That’s a really bad and true reality of our generation. We have Kylie Jenner and other instagram models abusing photoshop and plastic surgery so they end up looking like perfect little barbie dolls. Which they aren’t, because no one is. Young women look up to these girls and it can be frustrating, because that kind of perfect is never attainable. I’m hoping this is only a social media phase and people will start focusing on important things like how to change the world, not how to get the prefect lip injection.
But like someone else mentioned above, this is not only about social media. It’s offline society as well.
This is a really pertinent blog because the fact that this happens conditions the life of a lot of people. They tend to follow fake ideals of happiness instead of trying to live a healthy life. Awareness on this topic should be generated.
It’s one of the sad drawbacks of our age of a ‘global village’ – while we’re much more connected and have so much more information available, we also have a lot more people to compare ourselves against and come up wanting. And because we know the world is watching, most people only post their very most flattering photos online, reinforcing the idea that somehow everyone else is just more attractive than you are.
I try to stay away from Facebook as much as I can these days because it only ever ends up depressing me because I do just this!