Lifestyle Instagram images undermine young women’s self-esteem

Instagram images undermine young women’s self-esteem

Many young users of Instagram report feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and negative self-esteem, a new study has found.

In a series of focus groups involving more than 50 female university students aged 18-25 years, Notre Dame PhD researcher and tutor, Carmen Papaluca presented a range of images on fitness, beauty, nutrition, health, travel and work.

“Students in their late-teens and early-twenties were drawn to the images of fitness and beauty. But rather than positive reactions, the images generated feelings of inadequacy and negative self-perception,” said Ms Papaluca, who decided to undertake the research to clarify the link between Instagram use and emotional wellbeing.

“While images related to fitness encouraged students to keep active, they were motivated to do so from a negative perspective – to help them overcome their perceived physical shortcomings.

“However, students in their mid-twenties were far more focused on work and lifestyle. They felt their lives lacked meaning in comparison to others in the same age group who had posted ‘selfies’ working abroad, travelling to exotic destinations or showing off their enviable social lives,” she added.

Common across the entire group was a tendency for the students to manipulate their own Instagram accounts by boosting follower ratios and using fake images as a way of coping with the feelings of inadequacy and envy they experienced while using the social media platform.

“Despite the negative aspects, they all feel the need to document their own lives on Instagram in order to seek validation, try to improve their popularity and self-esteem through ‘likes’ and comments,” Ms Papaluca said.

Ms Papaluca plans to use the research to inform a larger study measuring the impact of Instagram on various aspects of wellbeing among female adolescents. She also wants to use her collective research to inform schools and policy makers about the negative implications of social media platforms.

Read more about the study’s findings here. Story credit: The University of Notre Dame Australia newsroom.

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