ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (8): 1497-1507.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.01497

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The influence of selfie related behavior in social media on body image

GU Xiao1, WANG Yuhui2, LEI Li3()   

  1. 1Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
    2Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Beijing University of Technology, Beijing 100124, China
    3School of Education, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
  • Received:2020-07-20 Published:2021-06-25
  • Contact: LEI Li


Social media has now become a part of the social life, in which selfie is a kind of common information of personal appearance oriented by appearance on social media. It is found that the selfie related behaviors are closely associated with users’ body image. Such behaviors on social media include selfie investment, selfie manipulation, selfie posting, selfie viewing, and selfie feedback investment. Since individuals are both publishers and receivers of information on social media, selfie investment, selfie manipulation and selfie posting can be regarded as publishers’ initiative selfie behavior, while selfie viewing and selfie feedback investment fall into the category of receivers’ reactive selfie behavior.
This study summarizes how selfie related behaviors would affect body image from two perspectives: initiative and reactive behaviors. It finds out that the reactive behaviors could generally do harm to body image, while the relationship between initiative behaviors and body image is relatively complex. To be specific, preparations before posting selfies (including selfie investment and selfie editing) would deliver negative influence on body image; meanwhile, as shown in existing researches, the effect of posting selfies on body image is not constant. Therefore, further studies are required to clarify the relationship between posting selfies and body image and find out moderating factors.
The objectification theory and social comparison theory provide some theoretic perspectives to explain how selfie related behaviors affect body image. In this process, body surveillance, standard internalization and appearance comparison are involved. Although the continuity of different selfie related behaviors is relatively obscure, behaviors in different categories would influence body image in certain paths, which would change with individuals’ identities as an information publisher or receiver. When an individual act as a publisher, he or she would constantly monitor and adjust his or her body from the perspective of spectators, thus strengthening body surveillance. On the other hand, when an individual act as a receiver, he or she would learn standards of beauty from the media and peers and then internalize them gradually. Meanwhile, social comparison runs through the whole process: individuals would compare themselves with the selfie images posted by others when they browse social media, present themselves online by posting selfies, or view the feedback on their posted selfies. Since individuals are usually intended to show their best aspects to the audience online, the selfies posted are generally edited and enhanced. As a result, upward social comparison would be naturally elicited afterward. What is more, the relationships between selfie related behaviors and body image as well as the process would be influenced by intrapersonal, interpersonal and environmental factors, such as gender, age, media literacy, etc.
Research on the relationships between selfie behaviors and body image can be expanded and deepened in the future from the following aspects; firstly, to widen the scope of research groups to explore the similarities and differences in the problems faced by different groups; secondly, to optimize research designs, so as to explore the relationship between selfie related behaviors and how they develop with body image; thirdly, to identify the subtle differences between selfie behaviors, while exploring different effects of various selfie related behaviors on body image; fourthly, to focus on the moderating variables which may affect the relationships between initiative and reactive selfies and body image; and fifthly, to take environmental variables into account, so as to explore the similarities and differences of the relationships between selfie behaviors and body image in different social media environments. Last but not the least, it is necessary to summarize the relevant phenomena to study the self-construction process in cyberspace, and discuss it from a theoretical perspective in order to gain more insight.

Key words: selfie related behaviors, body image, internalization, body surveillance, social comparison

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