Instagram use and self-worth
While social media provides unprecedented methods in order for people to establish virtual connections, it has also created a new field of study for psychological research. In today’s hyper-connected world, most of the interactions we have with other people is virtual, and social media platforms act as an intermediary in this sense.
It has been reported that Instagram use increased compared to other applications and platforms in 69% of the people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Considering the time spent on the Internet before and after the pandemic, it is important to analyze its psychological effects.
A growing number of studies have revealed the connections between the use of social media and well-being/health.
In this study, 247 participants consisting of active Instagram users (aged between 18-58) were subjected to questionnaires measuring the Instagram use-related sense of self-worth and social anxiety. The participants were evaluated in three groups: social anxiety (represented with SAQ-A scores) Instagram-contingent self-worth, and Instagram content control behaviors.
Social anxiety was evaluated through the Adult Social Anxiety Questionnaire (SAQ-A).
In order to measure the Instagram-contingent self-worth, the participants were asked to state to what degree they agree to the four-item statements on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly disagree; 2 = Disagree; 3 = Neither agree nor disagree; 4 = Agree; 5 = Strongly agree):
- “My self-confidence goes up when I get too many likes and new followers on Instagram;”
- “I feel precious when others like or comment on my Instagram posts;”
- “I feel bad when my Instagram posts and comments are not noticed;”
- “My self-esteem depends on how popular and active my Instagram profile is.”
Instagram provides users with various means of carefully selecting the contents that they create and share on the platform. It offers features for rotating and cropping images and videos, and for comparing the images edited with filters and effects to the original ones before posting them. Users can spend as much time as they want to edit their contents before posting them. Comments are a popular addition made on a post, and it is possible to make comments for the person posting the image, as well as for the followers. Both private and public accounts allow comments. Nevertheless, users may filter, delete or disable comments on a post-by-post basis. Users may disable comments in order to prevent others from making comments on a certain single post.
Taking such features into consideration, a brief 3-item questionnaire was administered for Instagram content control behaviors.
- “How frequently do you disable comments in regards to the posts you share on Instagram?”;
- “Approximately how much time do you spend on editing the pictures/videos you share on Instagram, and do you add texts for those?”;
- “How frequently do you edit your titles after sharing your post?”
The participants answered each of these items by using a 1-5-point Likert scale.
The results showed that participants with a higher level of social anxiety tended to have a greater contingent self-worth on Instagram, and that this is associated with certain content control behaviors, including the editing of post texts, pictures and videos while sharing texts. These findings show that those with higher social anxiety have different interactions with Instagram, and that this may be stemming from the self-worth that depends on their experiences on the platform. In general, this study makes contributions to a growing group of research that emphasizes the benefits and risks of social media on psychological health.
For instance, there was a significant positive correlation between self-esteem and Instagram-contingent self-worth.
There was a significant positive correlation between the Instagram-contingent self-worth and all of the three Instagram content control behaviors (disabling comments, time spent on editing subtitles, and time spent on editing pictures/videos in posts).
When the correlations between social anxiety and control behaviors were taken into account, there was a significant correlation between the social anxiety scores and the time spent on editing pictures/videos; however, the correlations for the other two Instagram control behaviors (disabling comments and spending time on editing subtitles) were not significant.
Under the light of the aforementioned results, for people battling social anxiety, it can be seen that a certain portion of their self-worth depends on other Instagram users acknowledging them in a positive manner, which is subsequently correlated with more frequent content control behaviors.
– Lopez, R. B., & Polletta, I. (2021). Regulating self-image on Instagram: Links between social anxiety, Instagram contingent self-worth, and content control behaviors. Frontiers in Psychology, 3700.