Social network and body image: the cost of wanting to always look perfect

Social network and body image: the cost of wanting to always look perfect

An article recently published in Addictive Behaviors Reports investigates the relationship between social networks, in particular with the activity of sharing selfies and photos of themselves, pathological narcissism and objectification of one’s body (Boursier et al., 2020).

The use of social networks is increasingly widespread nowadays, especially among young and very young people. For this reason, some researchers have defined this social “fashion”, no longer just a mere pastime, but a new way of being and showing oneself to others (Kuss & Griffiths, 2017). However, social networks can prove potentially dangerous, especially for teenagers (Livingston, 2008; Munno et al., 2016); in this regard, researchers and professionals from different fields have shown a strong interest in the problematic use of social media in recent years (e.g. Al-Menayes, 2015; Andreassen et al., 2016), highlighting the need to recognize those activities which are addictive in the context of social networks (Kuss & Griffiths,

Without a doubt, posting photos of yourself (selfie) is one of the most frequent social activities (just think of Instagram, completely dedicated to photographs and stories): some research has shown in this regard that the continuous dissemination of your image monitoring one’s popularity through the feedback of other users (like), could trigger the reward’s brain circuit, notoriously linked to addictive and abuse behaviors (Guedes et al., 2016).

According to Nadkarni and Hofmann (2012), the continuous posting of selfies and photos of themselves satisfies two social needs: the need for self-presentation and the need to feel belonging to something. It has also been shown that the work you do on your photo before posting it (effects, correction of facial defects, etc.) has a potentially dangerous effect.

Due to their tendency to appear grandiose in the eyes of others, the correlation between narcissism and the use of social networks has recently been analyzed, finding that narcissists tend to be assiduous users of these means (Davenport et al., 2014), in particular for regarding the publication of self-images (Marshall et al., 2015). Likewise, subsequent studies have pointed out that having a narcissistic personality is a predictor of using social networks (Weiser, 2018).

With this study (Boursier et al., 2020) the authors investigated the relationship between pathological narcissism, body objectification and the use of social networks to publish selfies and photos of themselves, assuming that a large number of traits narcissistic is linked to a greater number of posts.

The 570 young adults selected for the study responded to an online survey. The results showed that a high level in the scales that assessed body self-objectification and a positive expectation regarding the possible feedback to their selfies (high number of likes and comments) significantly predicted the behavior of posting photos. In addition, the results show that women tend to worry more than men about how they look in photos and use more tools to manipulate their image (e.g. effects).

This research has shown how it is necessary at a clinical level to consider the behavior of individuals on social networks, since a high use of the same and the tendency to self-objectification could be indicative of psychological suffering.