How does social media affect womens’ perception of their own bodies?
A recent study titled ‘The Mediating Role of Appearance Comparisons in
Relationship Between Media Usage and Self-Objectification in Young Women’,
published in the
Young Women – Psychology of Women Quarterly
– has tried to answer this question by closely investigating the
relationship between the image that women have of their own body, and the
use of different types of media:
In particular, the study examines the phenomenon of self-objectification of
the female body.
The assumption is based on the fact that the media portrait of women is
often focused on their physical appearance, rather than on their abilities
or their personality. Therefore, media exposure that promotes the image of
woman as a sexual object encourages, within adolescents, a perception
through this lense.
This theory, called the theory of objectification, warns of the most
dangerous aspects of the phenomenon: self-objectification can lead to
eating disorders, anxiety disorders, body shame and depression.
The survey was conducted in the United Kingdom on a sample of 150 girls
between the ages of 17 and 25 who completed questionnaires regarding:
● their media use;
● the tendency to compare their physical appearance with that of others in
● the habit of comparing their body with that of specific groups of people
on Facebook, as friends or acquaintances.
The results showed that the use of Facebook is linked to the phenomenon of
self-objectification, as the social network is focused on physical aspects.
In fact, Facebook is the place to share personal photos and receive
appreciative comments from their virtual friends, thus strengthening or
weakening their self-confidence.
In 2013 almost 250 billion photos were shared on Facebook; this figure
coupled with the increasing popularity of the medium among young women and
the time spent on the social network (about two hours a day according to
the Australian Bureau of Statistics), makes it clear how much power the
images that run through timelines are on the building of female body
The study concludes that the phenomenon of self-objectivity arising from
using Facebook is related to the fact that girls tend to compare their
physical appearance to that of other women.
In particular, the comparison between one’s physicality and that of another
is more in relation to one’s own peers, friends or acquaintances, than with
celebrities. This is because their lifestyles are comparable and thus peers
are the most accessible physical ideal.
From this, we can understand how much impact new media, especially social
networks such as Facebook, can have on the perception that young women have
of their body.
For this reason, it is crucial to ensure girls, especially teenagers, are
aware of the clear separation between the real and the online world.
We should teach them that every woman is unique and unrepeatable, beautiful
in her own way; that the stereotypes we encounter every day are
non-existent models. Every woman has her faults, even those that seem to be
perfect. What makes the difference is in accepting their imperfections and
enjoying themselves as they are.
This is the secret to having a good relationship with ourselves and with
the world around us. So, girls, disconnect from social networks, put your
smartphone away and stop being so obsessed with it.