A new study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, finds that females who base their self-esteem on their appearance are more inclined to share photos online and assemble larger groups of friends on social-networking sites.
University at Buffalo researcher Michael A. Stefone explained that females identify more strongly with their image and appearance (which we know from hearing about the pernicious influence of unrealistically skinny models a million times), and use Facebook as a way to get attention. The research team, trying to understand specific behavior on social-networking sites, looked at time spent managing profiles, number of photos shared, size of online networks, and how often "friending" was engaged in.
The study asked 311 participants with an average age of 23.3 years to fill out a questionnaire measuring their feelings of self-worth. The group was split evenly among men and women. The findings were pretty intuitive, with those whose self-esteem is based on public-based contingencies (such as the need for others' approval, looks, and out-competing others) more involved in online photo-sharing. Conversely, those whose self-esteem is based on private-based contingencies (such as academic competence, filial love and support, and being a virtuous and moral person) tend to spend less time online, not using social media as an attention magnet. Summing up, Stefanone said:
"Although it's stereotypical and might have been predicted, it is disappointing to me that in the year 2011 so many young women continue to assert their self-worth via their physical appearance. Perhaps this reflects the distorted value pegged to women's looks throughout the popular culture and in reality programming from The Bachelor to Keeping Up with the Kardashians."