A study has linked frequent use of social media by women with a greater risk of low self esteem.
The recent meta-analysis conducted by University of South Australia PhD student John Mingoia has shown that women who use social media often are at a greater risk of body dissatisfaction than those who use it sparingly.
The analysis, which assessed six independent studies totalling 1829 females up to the age of 46, discovered a link between the frequency of looking at social networking sites and the internalisation of the ‘thin ideal’.
“We looked at the relationship between using social networking sites and internalisation of the thin ideal, which is when someone sets a particular body image as their own personal standard and they strive to achieve that particular standard,” said Mingoia.
The majority of studies were conducted on university students, however one of the studies analysed was conducted on primary school students as young as 10, three years younger than the age required to register a profile on Facebook.
Although women are more aware of the fallacies associated with social media, for example the extensive use of Photoshop and distorted filters, Mingoia said they are still experiencing damaging effects on their self-esteem.
“Women tend to believe that because they are looking at peers more often than celebrities, and these peers have the same resources and the same lifestyles as them, the ideal is more achievable,” he said.
The PhD student is currently conducting four other research studies that look at the way both traditional media and social networking sites also affect males.
“Currently we’re doing a lot of research on the desire to be tanned in males and females.
“I’ve done some research in the past looking at males, and found that the use of traditional media is related to men wanting to be larger and having that low body fat percentage as opposed to wanting to be excessively thin.”
With the average daily use of social media being in excess of 10 hours, Mingoia believes introducing media literacy to both adolescents and young adults will help reduce the risk of body dissatisfaction.
“Teaching people the skills to critically analyse media is imperative. For example, understanding how a media image is constructed, how common it is to actually edit it and that these images are often portrayed as true photos.
“The better the understanding that people have of that, hopefully the less likely they’ll be to allow the photos they see to affect them.”
Mingoia and his research team are currently trialling a media literacy group on Facebook and, if successful, hope to see it be recreated on a larger scale.
“We’re getting women to join a Facebook group and we’re going through media literacy skills with them.
“If this works out we would like to do this on a larger scale where people could learn on social media as they are actually looking at images.”
South Australia’s capital Adelaide has three long-standing public universities, Flinders University, University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide, each of which are consistently rated highly in the international higher education rankings.