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Everyone Wants What They Can’t Have: Appearance Comparisons Made on Instagram and Their Effect on Body Dissatisfaction

Janna Bernatsky, Dr. Carie Buchanan, Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan - St. Thomas More College, 1437 College Dr, Saskatoon, SK S7N 0W6

This paper discusses the relationship between university students’ rate and direction of appearance comparisons made on social media, its impact on body dissatisfaction, and how this relationship differs by age. This study examined this phenomenon in emerging adults which has previously been an underexplored population. Hypothesis one stated that body dissatisfaction would be higher in younger age groups. Hypothesis two stated that the rate and direction of appearance comparisons made would also be higher in younger age groups. Hypothesis three stated that body dissatisfaction would be positively correlated with rate and direction of appearance comparisons. Data was collected through online surveys using the university’s psychology participant pool. Participants earned one course credit towards their final grade for participating in the study. This study consisted of 57 participants (M = 20.9 years). Pearson’s correlations and independent t-tests were done to test the three hypotheses. Hypothesis one was not confirmed, t(55) = .083, p = .219. Hypothesis two was also not confirmed, t(55) = -.185, p = .760. Hypothesis three was confirmed. General appearance comparison rates were significantly correlated with trait body dissatisfaction, r(55) = .588, p < .001, as well as state self esteem, r(55) = .578, p < .001. Upward appearance comparisons were also positively correlated with trait body dissatisfaction, r(55) = .275, p = .039, and with state self esteem, r(55) = .317, p = .016. Findings suggest that Instagram may have a powerful impact on the rate of upward appearance comparisons and those comparisons are correlated with increased body dissatisfaction for a large portion of people, regardless of age. Future research would benefit from an experimental design or longitudinal study to explore the relationships between Instagram use, appearance comparisons, and body dissatisfaction over time.

Keywords: appearance comparisons, body dissatisfaction, Instagram, development




Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Janna Bernatsky

Institution: University of Saskatchewan

Type: Poster

Subject: Psychology

Status: Approved


Time and Location

Session: Poster 10
Date/Time: Wed 1:30pm-2:30pm
Session Number: 6591