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#NEVERENOUGH: SOCIAL COMPARISON BY YOUNG WOMEN ON INSTAGRAM

A qualitative, interview-based, master’s thesis concerning how young women affectively experience social comparison offline and online, and especially on Instagram.

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#SafeSocial: Social Media as a Risky Behaviour

If we treat social media like we treat other risky behaviour such as sex and alcohol, we have a better chance at managing its harmful effects.

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We’re not the only ones looking into #SafeSocial. Here are some resources we use ourselves, but from others!

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Social Media & Mental HeaLth RESEARCH
A list of research studies looking into social media and mental health.

  • “#StatusOfMind Social media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.” Youth Health Movement, Royal Society of Public Health, 2017.
  • Acar, A. (2008). Antecedents and Consequences of Online Social Networking Behavior: The Case of Facebook. Journal of Website Promotion, 3(1–2), 62–83.
  • Alhabash, S., & Ma, M. (2017). A Tale of Four Platforms: Motivations and Uses of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat Among College Students? Social Media and Society, 3(1).
  • Andalibi, N., Ozturk, P., & Forte, A. (2017). Sensitive Self-disclosures, Responses, and Social Support on Instagram: The Case of #Depression. CSCW ’17 Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, 1485–1500.
  • Appel, H., Crusius, J., & Gerlach, A. (2015). Social Comparison, Envy, And Depression On Facebook: A Study Looking At The Effects Of High Comparison Standards On Depressed Individuals. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 34(4), 277–289. http://dx.doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2015.34.4.277
  • Bargh, J., & McKenna, K. (2004). The Internet and social life. Annual Review of Psychology, 55(1), 573–590.
  • Bond, B. J. (2009). He Posted, She Posted: Gender Differences in Self-Disclosure on Social Network Sites. Rocky Mountain Communication Review, 6(2), 29–37.
  • Casale, S., Gemelli, G., Calosi, C., Giangrasso, B., & Fioravanti, G. (2019). Multiple exposure to appearance-focused real accounts on Instagram: Effects on body image among both genders. Current Psychology, (Journal Article), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-019-00229-6
  • Chae, J. (2014). “Am I a Better Mother Than You?”: Media and 21st-Century Motherhood in the Context of the Social Comparison Theory. Communication Research, 42(4), 503–525. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650214534969
  • Chae, J. (2018). Reexamining the relationship between social media and happiness: The effects of various social media platforms on reconceptualized happiness. Telematics and Informatics, 35(6), 1656–1664. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2018.04.011
  • Charoensukmongkol, P. (2018). The Impact of Social Media on Social Comparison and Envy in Teenagers: The Moderating Role of the Parent Comparing Children and In-group Competition among Friends. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27(1), 69–79. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-017-0872-8
  • Chua, T. H. H., & Chang, L. (2015). Follow me and like my beautiful selfies: Singapore teenage girls’ engagement in self-presentation and peer comparison on social media. Computers in Human Behavior, 55, 190–197. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.09.011
  • Davila, J., Hershenberg, R., Feinstein, B. A., Gorman, K., Bhatia, V., & Starr, L. R. (2012). Frequency and Quality of Social Networking Among Young Adults: Associations With Depressive Symptoms, Rumination, and Corumination. Psychology of Popular Media and Culture, 1(2), 72–86. https://doi.org/doi:10.1037/a0027512
  • De Vries, D. A., Möller, A. M., Wieringa, M. S., Eigenraam, A. W., & Hamelink, K. (2018). Social Comparison as the Thief of Joy: Emotional Consequences of Viewing Strangers’ Instagram Posts. Media Psychology, 21(2), 222–245. https://doi.org/10.1080/15213269.2016.1267647
  • Djafarova, E., & Rushworth, C. (2017). Exploring the credibility of online celebrities’ Instagram profiles in influencing the purchase decisions of young female users. Computers in Human Behavior, 68, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.11.009
  • Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The Benefits of Facebook ‘“Friends:”’ Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Site. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 1143–1168. https://doi.org/doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00367.x
  • Hawi, N. S., & Samaha, M. (2017). The Relations Among Social Media Addiction, Self-Esteem, and Life Satisfaction in University Students. Social Science Computer Review, 35(5), 576–586. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439316660340
  • Ho, S. S., Lee, E. W. J., & Liao, Y. (2016). Social Network Sites, Friends, and Celebrities: The Roles of Social Comparison and Celebrity Involvement in Adolescents’ Body Image Dissatisfaction. Social Media + Society, 2(3), 2056305116664216. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305116664216
  • Ingvadóttir, A. B. (2014). The Relationship between Facebook Use and Loneliness: A Comparison Between High-School Students and University Students. Department of Psychology School of Business, Reykjavik University.
  • Jin, S. V., & Muqaddam, A. (2018). “Narcissism 2.0! Would narcissists follow fellow narcissists on Instagram?” the mediating effects of narcissists personality similarity and envy, and the moderating effects of popularity. Computers in Human Behavior, 81, 31–41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.11.042
  • Jelenchick, L. A., Eickhoff, J. C., & Moreno, M. A. (2016). “Facebook Depression?” Social Networking Site use and Depression in Older Adolescents. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(1), 128–130. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.05.008
  • Kathryn, G. L., Charanasomboon, S., Brown, C., Hiltunen, G., & al, e. (2003). Internalization of the thin ideal, weight and body image concerns. Social Behavior and Personality, 31(1), 81. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.2224/sbp.2003.31.1.81
  • Kim, J. W., & Chock, T. M. (2015). Body image 2.0: Associations between social grooming on Facebook and body image concerns. Computers in Human Behavior, 48(Complete), 331–339. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.01.009
  • Kleemans, M., Daalmans, S., Carbaat, I., & Anschütz, D. (2018). Picture Perfect: The Direct Effect of Manipulated Instagram Photos on Body Image in Adolescent Girls. Media Psychology, 21(1), 93–110. https://doi.org/10.1080/15213269.2016.1257392
  • Korpinen, L., Pääkkönen, R., & Gobba, F. (2018). Self-reported wrist and finger symptoms associated with other physical/mental symptoms and use of computers/mobile phones. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 24(1), 82–90. https://doi.org/10.1080/10803548.2017.1282030
  • Krasnova, H., Wenninger, H., Widjaja, T., & Buxmann, P. (2013, February). Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction? Hanna Krasnova1,*, Helena Wenninger2 , Thomas Widjaja2 , and Peter Buxmann. Presented at the 11th International Conference on Wirtschaftsinformatik, Leipzig, Germany.
  • Kross, E., Verduyn, P., Demiralp, E., Park, J., Lee, S., Lin, N., & Ybarra, O. (2013). Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults. Plos One, 1(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069841
  • Lalancette, M., & Raynauld, V. (2019). The Power of Political Image: Justin Trudeau, Instagram, and Celebrity Politics. American Behavioral Scientist, 63(7), 888–924. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764217744838
  • Lee, E., Lee, J.-A., Moon, J. H., & Sung, Y. (2015). Pictures Speak Louder than Words: Motivations for Using Instagram. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18(9). https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2015.0157
  • Lewallen, J., & Behm-Morawitz, E. (2016). Pinterest or Thinterest?: Social Comparison and Body Image on Social Media. Social Media + Society, 2(1), 2056305116640559. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305116640559
  • Li, Y. (2019). Upward social comparison and depression in social network settings: The roles of envy and self-efficacy. Internet Research, 29(1), 46–59. https://doi.org/10.1108/ IntR-09-2017-0358
  • Lin, J.-H. T. (2019). Strategic Social Grooming: Emergent Social Grooming Styles on Facebook, Social Capital and Well-Being. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 24(3), 90–107. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcmc/zmz002
  • Liu, C., & Ma, J. (2018). Social media addiction and burnout: The mediating roles of envy and social media use anxiety. Current Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-018-9998-0
  • McGuirk, K. (2017). GET IT, GIRL! An Exploration Of “Fitspiration” Content On Instagram Using Visual Social Semiotics And Social Comparison Theory [Masters Research Paper]. Ryerson University.
  • Nesi, J., & Prinstein, M. J. (2015). Using Social Media for Social Comparison and FeedbackSeeking: Gender and Popularity Moderate Associations with Depressive Symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43(8), 1427–1438. https://doi.org/doi:10.1007/s10802-015-0020-0.
  • O’Keefe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). Clinical Report—The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families (Clinical Report No. 127.4). Retrieved from American Academy of Pediatrics website: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/4/800
  • Pantic, I., Damjanovic, A., Todorovic, J., Topalovic, D., Bojovic-Jovic, D., Ristic, S., & Pantic, S. (2012). Association Between Online Social Networking and Depression in High School Students: Behavioural Physiology Viewpoint. Psychiatria Danubina, 24(1), 90–93.
  • Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Escobar-Viera, C., Barrett, E. L., Sidani, J. E., Colditz, J. B., & James, A. E. (2017). Use of Multiple Social Media Platforms and Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Nationally-Representative Study among U.S. Young Adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 69, 1–9.
  • Sheldon, P. (2008). The Relationship between Unwillingness-to-Communicate and Students’ Facebook use. Journal of Media Psychology, 20(2), 67–75.
  • Sheldon, P., & Bryant, K. (2016). Instagram: Motives for its use and relationship to narcissism and contextual age. Computers in Human Behavior, 58, 89–97.
  • Slater, A., Varsani, N., & Diedrichs, P. C. (2017). fitspo or #loveyourself? The impact of fitspiration and self-compassion Instagram images on women’s body image, self-compassion, and mood. Body Image, 22(Journal Article), 87–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2017.06.004
  • Steers, M.-L. N., Wickham, R. E., & Acitelli, L. K. (2014). Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 33(8), 701–731. http://dx.doi.org/101521jscp2014338701
  • Stickland, A. C. (2014). Exploring the Effects of Social Media Use on the Mental Health of Young Adults. University of Central Florida Orlando, Florida.
  • Tandoc, E. C., Ferrucci, P., & Duffy, M. (2015). Facebook use, Envy, and Depression among College Students: Is Facebooking Depressing? Computers in Human Behavior, 43, 139–146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.10.053
  • Thorsteinsson, E. B., & Davey, L. (2014). Adolescents’ Compulsive Internet Use and Depression: A Longitudinal Study. Open Journal of Depression, 3(1), 13–17. https://doi.org/DOI: 10.4236/ojd.2014.31005
  • Tiggemann, M., Hayden, S., Brown, Z., & Veldhuis, jolanda. (2018). The effect of Instagram “likes” on women’s social comparison and body dissatisfaction. Body Image, 26, 90–97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.07.002
  • Wagner, C., Aguirre, E., & Sumner, E. M. (2016). The relationship between Instagram selfies and body image in young adult women. First Monday, 21(9). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v21i9.6390
  • Weinstein, E. (2018). The social media see-saw: Positive and negative influences on adolescents’ affective well-being. New Media & Society, 20(10), 3597–3623. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444818755634
  • Woods, H. C., & Scott, H. (2016). Sleepyteens: Social Media use in Adolescence is Associated with Poor Sleep Quality, Anxiety, Depression and Low Self-Esteem. Journal of Adolescence, 51, 41–49.
  • Valkenburg, P. M., Jochen, P., & Schouten, A. P. (2006). Friend Networking Sites and Their Relationship to Adolescents’ Well-Being and Social Self-Esteem. Cyberpsychology and Behaviour, 9(5).
  • Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Roberts, L. R., & Eckles, K. (2014). Social Comparison, Social Media, and Self-Esteem. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 3(4), 206–222. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000047

Supporting Research re: Social Comparison, Cognitive Development, General Social Media Use, and Mental Health

  • Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging Adulthood: A Theory of Development From the Late Teens Through the Twenties. American Psychologist, 55(5), 469–480. https://doi.org/DOI: 10.1037//0003-066X.55.5.469
  • Aspinwall, L. G., & Taylor, S. E. (1993). Effects of social comparison direction, threat, and self-esteem on affect, self-evaluation, and expected success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64(5), 708–722. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.64.5.708
  • Buunk, B. P., Collins, R., Taylor, S. E., Van Yperen, N. W., & Dakof, G. A. (1990). The affective consequences of social comparison: Either direction has its ups and downs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59(6), 1238–1249. https://doi.org/DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.59.6.1238
  • Cacioppo, J. T., & Hughes, M. E. (2006). Loneliness as a Specific Risk Factor for Depressive Symptoms: Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Analyses. Psychology and Aging, 21(1), 140–151.
  • Callan, M. J., Kim, H., & Matthews, W. J. (2015). Age Differences in Social Comparison Tendency and Personal Relative Deprivation. Personality and Individual Differences, 87, 196–199. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2015.08.003
  • Collins, R. (1996). For better or worse: The impact of upward social comparison on self-evaluations. Psychological Bulletin, 119(1), 51–69. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1037/0033-2909.119.1.51
  • Crocker, J., & Knight, K. M. (2015). Contingencies of Self-Worth. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14(4). https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00364.x.
  • Crocker, J., & Wolfe, C. T. (2001). Contingencies of self-worth. Psychological Review, 108(3), 593–623. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.108.3.593
  • Dauenbeimer, D. G., Stablberg, D., Spreeman, S., & Sedikides, C. (2002). Self-Enhancement, Self-Verification, or Self Assessment The Intricate Role of Trait Modifiability in the Self-Evaluation Process. Revue Internationale De Psychologie Sociale, 15(3–4), 89–112.
  • Erikson, Eric. H. (1994). Identity: Youth and Crisis. W. W. Norton & Company.
  • Festinger, L. (1954). A Theory of Social Comparison Processes. Human Relations, 7(2), 177–140. https://doi.org/10.1177/001872675400700202
  • Fisher, R. J. (1993). Social Indirect Desirability Questioning Bias and the Validity Of. Journal of Consumer Research, 20(2), 303–315.
  • Franzoi, S. L., Vasquez, K., Frost, K., Sparapani, E., & Martin, J. (2012). Exploring Body Comparison Tendencies: Women Are Self-Critical Whereas Men Are Self-Hopeful. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 36(1).
  • Gibbons, F. X. (1986). Social comparison and depression: Company’s effect on misery. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(1), 140–148. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.51.1.140
  • Gibbons, F. X., & Buunk, B. P. (1999). Individual differences in social comparison: Development of a scale of social comparison orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(1), 129–142. https://doi.org/DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.76.1.129
  • Goethals, G. R., & Darley, J. (1977). Social comparison theory: An attributional approach. Social Comparison Processes: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives, 86–109.
  • Grogan, S. (1999). Body Image: Understanding Body Dissatisfaction in Men, Women and Children. Routledge.
  • Gruder, C. L. (1971). Determinants of social comparison choices. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7(5), 473–489. https://doi.org/doi:10.1016/0022-1031(71)90010-2
  • Gruzd, A., Jacobson, J., Mai, P., & Dubois, E. (2018). The State of Social Media in Canada 2017. Retrieved from https://socialmedialab.ca/2018/02/25/state-of-social-media-in-canada/
  • Guimond, S., Chatard, A., Martinot, D., Crisp, R. J., & Redersdorff, S. (2006). Social Comparison, Self-Stereotyping, and Gender Differences in Self-Construals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(2), 221–242. https://doi.org/DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.90.2.221
  • Hall, S. (1980). Encoding / Decoding. Culture, Media, Language: Working Papers in Cultural Studies, 1972–79, 128–138.
  • Havighurst, R. J. (1967). Human Development and Education. David Mckay.
  • Helliwell, J. F., & Putnam, R. D. (2004). The social context of well-being. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 359(1449), 1435–1446.
  • Kang, Y. (2019). The relationship between contingent self-esteem and trait self-esteem. Social Behavior and Personality, 47(2). https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.7575
  • Krueger, D., & Jin, L. (2008). Social Grooming In Primates: Mechanism. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from Social Grooming in Primates website: https://www.reed.edu/biology/professors/srenn/pages/teaching/web_2008/dklj_site_final/mechanism.html
  • Morse, S., & Gergen, K. J. (1970). Social comparison, self-consistency, and the concept of self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16(1), 148–156. https://doi.org/DOI:10.1037/h0029862
  • Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society And The Adolescent Self-Image. Princeton University Press.
  • Sedikides, C. (1993). Assessment, enhancement, and verification determinants of the self-evaluation process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(2), 317.
  • Sedikides, C., & Strube, M. J. (1997). Self-Evaluation: To Thine Own Self Be Good, To Thine Own Self Be Sure, To Thine Own Self Be True, and To Thine Own Self be Better. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 29, 209–269. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60018-0
  • Stewart, T. L., Chipperfield, J. G., Ruthig, J. C., & Heckhausen, J. (2012). Downward social comparison and subjective well-being in late life: The moderating role of perceived control. Aging and Mental Health, 1–11. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2012.743963
  • Suls, J., Martin, R., & Wheeler, L. (2002). Social comparison: Why, with whom, and with what effect? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11(5), 159–163. https://doi.org/doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00191
  • Taylor, S. E., & Lobel, M. (1989). Social comparison activity under threat: Downward evaluation and upward contacts. Psychological Review, 96(4), 569–575.
  • Tesser, A., & Campbell, J. (1982). Self-evaluation maintenance and the perception of friends and strangers. Journal of Personality, 50(3), 261–279. https://doi.org/doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1982.tb00750.x
  • Wang, J.-L., Wang, H.-Z., Gaskin, J., & Hawk, S. (2017). The Mediating Roles of Upward Social Comparison and Self-esteem and the Moderating Role of Social Comparison Orientation in the Association between Social Networking Site Usage and Subjective Well-Being. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. https://doi.org/doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00771
  • Wayment, H. A., & Taylor, S. E. (1995). Self-evaluation processes: Motives, information use, and self-esteem. Journal of Personality, 63(4), 729–757. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1111/j.1467-6494.1995.tb00315.x
  • White, J. B., Langer, E. J., Yariv, L., & Welch IV, J. C. (2006). Frequent Social Comparisons and Destructive Emotions and Behaviors: The Dark Side of Social Comparisons. Journal of Adult Development, 13(1), 36–44. https://doi.org/DOI: 10.1007/s10804-006-9005-0
  • Wills, T. (1981). Downward comparison principles in social psychology. Psychological Bulletin, 90(2), 245–271. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1037/0033-2909.90.2.245
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