U. BUFFALO (US) — Women who use image and appearance as a basis for self-worth tend to post more photos of themselves online on social media sites like Facebook.
“The results suggest persistent differences in the behavior of men and women that result from a cultural focus on female image and appearance,” says Michael Stefanone, assistant professor of communication at the University at Buffalo, and author of a new study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.
The research investigates variables that explain specific online behavior on social network sites, including the amount of time subjects spend managing profiles, the number of photos they shared, the size of their online networks, and how promiscuous they were in terms of “friending” behavior.
Contingencies of self-worth explain much of the social behavior enacted online, Stefanone says.
For the study, 311 participants with an average age of 23.3 years—49.8 percent of whom were female—completed a questionnaire exploring their feelings of self-worth and typical behaviors on Facebook.
“Those whose self esteem is based on public-based contingencies (defined here as others’ approval, physical appearance, and outdoing others in competition) were more involved in online photo sharing, and those whose self-worth is most contingent on appearance have a higher intensity of online photo sharing,” Stefanone says.
“Participants whose self worth is based on private-based contingencies (defined in this study as academic competence, family love, and support, and being a virtuous or moral person),” says Stefanone, “spend less time online.”
For these people, social media are less about seeking attention.
“Contingencies on which people assess their self worth represent a new approach to understanding how personal identities are developed and maintained.
“This study provides a framework for future explorations of identity construction, social interaction, and media use in a rapidly changing communication environment.”
Although it’s stereotypical and might have been predicted, Stefanone says it “is disappointing that in the year 2011 so many young women continue to assert their self worth via their physical appearance—in this case, by posting photos of themselves on Facebook as a form of advertisement.
“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.”
Derek Lackaff of the University of Texas-Austin and Devan Rosen of the University of Hawaii, Manoa, were co-authors of the study.
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