Abstract (2) body image dissatisfaction, caused by Instagram

The objective of this study is
to investigate the relationship between Instagram usage and body image
satisfaction. Previous studies in this field have demonstrated that increased
Instagram usage causes decreased body image satisfaction for women. This study
examines both genders to find out whether there are differences regarding body
image dissatisfaction that is caused by Instagram activity. To test the
hypothesis whether (1) increased Instagram activity leads to decreased body
image satisfaction for both genders and that (2) body image dissatisfaction,
caused by Instagram usage is higher among females than males, an online survey
consisting of demographic questions as well as questions about Instagram usage
and body satisfaction (Body Cathexis Scale (BCS) is given to male and female
participants between the ages 18-30.
Keywords: body
image, body satisfaction, social media, Instagram,


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For a
long time traditional media channels have impacted people’s body image concerns
in a negative way. With social media becoming more and more popular, sites like
Facebook and Instagram have become part of everyone’s daily lives and started
to influence people’s perception of themselves in their own way. A study
conducted in 2014 revealed that 74% of adults using Internet had some kind of
social media account (Holland & Tiggemann, 2016). Hence currently Facebook
is the most popular social media platform, it has been the primary focus of
research in this field (Fardouly & Vartanian, 2016). However, lately
Instagram has become more and more popular, especially among young people.
Since its launch in 2010, Instagram, which was originally designed to share pictures,
has become the 30th most popular site worldwide. In 2015, Instagram
had more than 300 million active users and more than 70 million pictures were uploaded
daily (Ridway & Clayton, 2016). Having such a broad scope, it seems
necessary to investigate in which way Instagram influences people’s body image

article aims to explore how the social media platform Instagram, influences body
image. Therefore, after main concepts such as body image are defined, previous
literature about the influence of social media in general will be reviewed.
Afterwards research concentrating on Instagram will be examined. Lastly the
design of the study will be explained briefly.


            How people perceive, feel and think about themselves or
how they think other people see them can be defined as body image (Collins,
2013). According to Collins (2013), a “positive body image means that a person
sees himself or herself accurately, feels comfortable in his or her body, and
feels good about the way he or she looks” (p.285). People with a positive body
image are also capable of understanding that their self-worth is not defined by
their appearance. On the other hand, people with a negative body image
generally feel awkward and ashamed of their body (Collins, 2013). This type of
maladaptive thinking has several negative consequences. For example, a study
revealed that people with highly negative body images are more prone to develop
eating disorders (Furnham, Badmin & Sneade, 2002). Additionally these kinds
of thoughts can be damaging to both physical and mental health causing anxiety,
depression and low self-esteem.  It is
important to understand that body image is not determined by a person’s actual
appearance, but rather by how the person feels about his or her own appearance
(Collins, 2013).  People’s thoughts and
feelings about their body image can vary depending on age and experience.
Especially times of transformation, for example puberty or menopause/
andropause, affect how people perceive their own appearance (Collins, 2013). Research
has shown that particularly adolescent girls are highly dissatisfied with their
body and tend to be more likely to develop eating disorders than their male
counterparts (Holland & Tiggemann, 2016). Approximately 50% of teenage
girls report that they are unhappy with their body. This dissatisfaction can
start developing as early as the age of six (Holland & Tiggemann, 2016). Research
indicates that not just among adolescents but also in general, people are
unhappier with their bodies than ever before. A study about body
dissatisfaction revealed that 56% of female participants were not satisfied
with their overall look. 89% of those women believed that they needed to loose
weight (Collins, 2013). In contrast to women, men want to gain weight and
become more muscular. According to Collins (2013), this desire to become more
muscular is associated with the concept of masculinity and that men with more
muscles are perceived as more “manly”.

            Messages about how people are supposed to look are
constantly given through various media channels. Unrealistic beauty ideals are
promoted through the media by portraying glamorous, young, tall and extremely
thin women. An alarming study found out that female participants who were shown
pictures of extremely thin models for only three minutes displayed higher
levels of guilt, shame, unhappiness, depression, stress and decreased
confidence as well as increased body dissatisfaction (Stice & Heather,

Several theories have tried to
explain the effects of media on body image but two of them have become more
popular; the social comparison theory and the objectification theory (Holland
& Tiggemann, 2016). The social comparison theory suggests that people have
a natural drive to compare themselves to others in regard to attributes and
abilities (Hendrickse et al., 2017). If individuals compare themselves to
others with superior abilities or attributes this is called upward social
comparison. Downward social comparison in contrast happens when people compare
their own attributes and abilities to more inferior others. If someone compares
him-/herself in regard of physical attractiveness this is called
appearance-related comparison. When applied this means that the media imposes
thin beauty ideals to women and encourages them to internalize and aspire these
ideals. When women compare themselves to the thinner target a discrepancy
between their own body and the portrayed body becomes apparent. This
discrepancy leads to negative self-evaluation and body dissatisfaction
(Hendrickse et al,. 2017, Holland & Tiggemann, 2016).  The objectification theory on the other hand
assumes that in “Western societies, the female body is socially constructed as
an object to be looked at and evaluated, primarily on the basis of appearance”
(Holland & Tiggemann, 2016, p. 101). Because women and girls are
extensively and repeatedly confronted with such sexual objectifications, they
are socialized to view their own bodies from an observer’s perspective. This
way they perceive their own bodies as an object that is evaluated on the basis
of appearance. This process is called “self-objectification” and causes women
to constantly monitor their external appearance. Furthermore, this constant
self-monitoring leads to increased body shame and anxiety as well as decreased
body satisfaction (Holland & Tiggemann, 2016).

contrast to traditional media, such as television and magazines, social media
has its unique features that may influence the effects on body image. Most
importantly, in contrast to traditional media, which portrays models and
celebrities, social media allows individuals to feature themselves.
Additionally individuals use social media to present and idealized version of
themselves by only showing their prettiest pictures. Lastly, the purpose of
social media is to interact with one’s peers and studies demonstrate that
comparisons, especially regarding appearance may be considerably more
influential for body image (Fardouly & Vartanian, 2016).  Research demonstrates that time spent on
social media greatly influences body image. A study conducted among young girls
and adolescent women found out that spending more time on social media is
associated with more affirmation of the thin ideal, more surveillance of the
own body as well as increased appearance comparisons and decreased weight
satisfaction (Holland & Tiggemann, 2016). An experimental study designed to
test the impact of pre-selected pictures, in an artificial platform resembling
social media sites, on body image concerns was conducted among female and male
undergraduate students. The results showed that when participants were exposed
to pictures of good-looking same-sex strangers they reported a more negative
body image a decreased mood compared to participants, which were shown pictures
of not good-looking same-sex strangers. Results were the same for male and
female participants (Fardouly & Vartanian, 2016). 

focusing only on Facebook has found similar results. A study conducted among female
psychology students in Australia revealed that the frequency of Facebook usage
was positively correlated to both body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness
(Fardouly & Vartanian, 2015). The same study showed that appearance
comparison in general worked as a mediating variable between Facebook and body
image concerns. The authors propose that the reason why women who use Facebook
more often feel more dissatisfied with their body image is because they compare
themselves to others more often. Results showed that close friends and
celebrities were more often object of comparison in contrast to family
members.  These findings are consistent
with previous literature, which suggests that people most frequently compare
themselves to peers or famous individuals (Fardouly & Vartanian, 2015).
Even though experimental studies are relatively rare in this field, Fardouly et
al. (2015) conducted one to measure the effects of Facebook on young women’s
body image and mood. Participants, who were randomly assigned into three
groups, were asked to spend 10 minutes browsing either their own Facebook
account, a fashion magazine website or a control website which was appearance-neutral.
All participants complete a body-dissatisfaction and mood questionnaire before
and after the media exposure phase. Additionally a state questionnaire
regarding appearance-discrepancy was conducted after the exposure. Lastly a
trait questionnaire measuring appearance comparison tendency was given to the
participants one week after the experiment. As Table1 illustrates, results
showed that out of all three conditions, negative mood was highest among
participants who spent 10 minutes on


Mean (SD) ratings for post-exposure
measures by condition.





Negative Mood

31.24 (18.57)

27.48 (14.37)

20.38 (12.28)

Body Dissatisfaction

45.53 (16.93)

50.05 (19.84)

45.04 (21.58)

Weight and Shape Discrepancy

8.58 (7.53)

10.97 (11.78)

6.16 (7.43)

Facebook. Body dissatisfaction
and weight and shape discrepancy were highest among participants who were asked
to browse a fashion magazine website. Comparison tendency did not have an
effect. The authors suggest that the reason why Facebook causes the highest
decrease in mood is because it provides a platform on which individuals can
compare themselves on multiple dimensions. Comparison is not only limited to
appearance but also includes social status and life experiences. Women may be
assuming that others are happier and living a better life, which would lead to
a decrease in their mood (Fardouly et al., 2015). 


looking at research concentrating on Instagram and body image similar patterns
can be seen. Hendrickse et al, (2017) found out that appearance-related
comparisons on Instagram are positively related to an increased drive towards
thinness and greater body dissatisfaction among women. Furthermore women
engaging in comparisons regarding appearance are also more likely to have body
image concerns (Hendrickse et al, 2017). They also revealed that the
relationship status of the individual played a role in appearance-related
comparisons. Single women were more likely to engage in appearance-related
comparison than married women. Hendrickse et al, (2017) also looked at ethnic
differences and found out that African Americans reported less
appearance-related comparisons as well as less drive for thinness. According to
the authors this showed that greater appearance-related comparison is related
to higher body dissatisfaction and a greater drive for thinness.

study experimentally investigated the relationship between attractive celebrity
and peer images on Instagram and women’s mood and body image (Brown &
Tiggemann, 2016). 136 female undergraduate students were randomly assigned into
three conditions. In each of the conditions participants were shown 15
pictures, either of attractive celebrities, attractive, unknown peers or travel
destinations. Afterwards participants were given a questionnaire consisting of
questions about Instagram usage, negative mood and body dissatisfaction,
state-appearance comparison and celebrity worship. The result showed that
negative mood and body dissatisfaction was higher in participants who were
shown the celebrity pictures or the peer pictures compared to the travel
destination pictures (Table 2).

Means (SD) for negative mood,
body dissatisfaction, and state appearance comparisons by image type.


Image type





Negative mood

28.11 (0.96)

29.18 (0.96)

24.80 (0.96)

Body dissatisfaction

45.76 (1.62)

45.94 (1.62)

41.04 (1.62)

State appearance comparison

3.88 (1.79)

4.09 (1.72)

1.89 (1.84)


No significant difference
between celebrity and peer images was found in relation to body dissatisfaction
and negative mood. Results also showed that participants who were shown images
of celebrities or peers engaged more in appearance comparison than participants
who were shown travel destination images. State appearance comparison was
significantly correlated to negative mood and body dissatisfaction. Additionally,
celebrity worship served as a moderator between image and body dissatisfaction.
As Figure 1 illustrates body dissatisfaction was especially high for those
participants who were shown celebrity pictures and scored high on celebrity

These results
indicate that the exposure to attractive, thin celebrities does have an
immediate negative effect on women’s body image and mood. The same negative
effects can be seen when women are exposed to attractive and thin peers (Brown
& Tiggemann, 2016).

A different study
investigating the relationship between Instagram usage and body image selected
self-schema and self-discrepancy as mediating variables (Ahadzadeh, Sharif
& Ong, 2017).  In contrast to most of
the other studies, this study was conducted among males and females, aged
18-26. All participants filled out an online survey that included questions
about Instagram usage, self-schema, self- discrepancy, body satisfaction and
self-esteem. Before introducing the methods used, the authors define the main
concepts used in their study. A self-schema is a cognitive structure a person
possesses about him-/herself. Generalizations about the self are derived from
past experiences and used to organize and guide behavior. Self-schemas can
occur in multiple domains, including appearance. If there are differences
between actual self and the ideal self (e.g. thin, attractive),
self-discrepancy occurs.

includes the individual’s cognitions about their abilities and competences.

Results of the
study indicated that Instagram usage did have a negative effect on body image
and that self-schema and self-discrepancy mediated this negative effect. Furthermore,
the results showed that self-esteem served as a moderator between Instagram
usage and self-schema and Instagram usage and body satisfaction. Figure 2
illustrates that as Instagram usage increased, so did body dissatisfaction for
people with low self-esteem. Participants who

used Instagram more frequently
and had low self-esteem showed the highest body dissatisfaction. People with
high self-esteem on the other hand were also high in body satisfaction and
demonstrated relatively less changes as Instagram usage increased. So as
self-esteem increased body image dissatisfaction related to Instagram usage
decreased. These results prove that self-esteem is a mediator between Instagram
usage and body image satisfaction (Ahadzadeh, Sharif & Ong, 2017). Even
though this study was conducted among men and women, no analysis were made to
portray differences between both genders in regard to Instagram related body
image satisfaction.

Slater, Varsani and
Diedrichs (2017) looked at the relationship between Instagram and body image
from a different perspective and revealed that self-compassion quotes posted on
Instagram can lead to greater body satisfaction among young females.  According to the authors there are 60,000
images on Instagram that were posted with the hashtag #selfcompassion and over
8 million with #selflove (June, 2017). These kinds of posts generally consist
of a neutral background with no visible person and contain quotes such as “Cut yourself some slack. You’re doing
better than you think” or “Be gentle
with yourself”. This experimental study randomly assigned young, female
participants in four categories. One group was shown Instagram posts consisting
of self-compassion posts, another was shown fitspiration posts (posts that
encourage women to be fitter), a third group was shown posts that combined
self-compassion and fitspiration and lastly a neutral control group. Results
portrayed that women who were exposed to the self-compassion posts only showed
greater body satisfaction, body appreciation, self-compassion and less negative
mood. Women who were shown only fitspiration posts showed significantly less
self-compassion, body appreciation and elevated negative mood. When comparing
the participants who were shown only fitspiration post to the participants who
were shown both fitspiration and self-compassion, it came out that
self-compassion posts lessened the negative effects of fitspiration posts.
Compared to the only fitspiration group, women exposed to both fitspiration and
self-compassion showed higher body satisfaction, body appreciation,
self-compassion and decreased negative mood. These results demonstrate that
self-compassion posts lead to higher body image dissatisfaction and can soften
the negative effects of fitspiration posts on body image and mood (Slater,
Varsani and Diedrichs, 2017).


            Reviewing the literature it can be said that
there is a relationship between social media and body image satisfaction.
Studies about both social media in general and Facebook have shown that
increased activity on social media platform leads to lower body satisfaction.

Research focusing on Instagram has found that
when people compare themselves to celebrities or peers on Instagram, body
satisfaction decreases. Posts that don’t include people, but only
self-compassion quotes on the other hand increase body image satisfaction.

there is an important gap in research regarding differences among male and
female Instagram users. No study clearly analysis whether body image
dissatisfaction caused by Instagram usage is the same for male users.  Therefore this study hypothesizes that (1)
increased Instagram activity leads to decreased body image satisfaction for
both genders and that (2) body image dissatisfaction, caused by Instagram usage
is higher among females than males.



study will be questioning participants about their Instagram usage and body
image satisfaction in an online survey. For the aim of the study it is
important that the sample does not only consist of females, but also male
participants. Age of participants should be between 18 and 30, hence younger
people are more active on social media.

usage will be measured by asking participants how much time (in minutes) per
day they approximately spent on Instagram.

Image will be assessed by the Body Cathexis Scale (BCS) (Secord, Jourard,
1953), which measures how participants feel about their bodies. The scale
consists of 40 items, which can be answered on a scale from “I don’t like at
all” to “I really like”.

regarding demographic information will be given at the end of the


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