Selfies, defined by the Oxford dictionary in 2013, refers to a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media. It is a very popular practice especially among the younger generations. Adolescents (who are the subject of the study here) take, edit and post selfies, but they can also view, examine, like, and comment on other adolescents’ selfies when posted on social media.
These types of pictures are appearance-based and therefore raise some questions about the potential relationship between selfie-related behaviors and both self-objectification (i.e. viewing one’s body as an object to be looked upon and evaluated based on physical appearance) and appearance concerns (e.g. dis- satisfaction with the appearance of one’s body or face). This study focuses on these relationships.
Participants were recruited among two middle schools and two high schools in China, aged between 12 and 19. In total, 767 adolescent boys and girls filled out paper-and-pencil questionnaires, one survey at Time 1 and one survey at Time 2.
These surveys included questions about selfie posting (“How often would you say that you post selfies on social media?”), selfie viewing (“How often would you say that you post selfies on social media?”), selfie editing (frequency of cropping selfies, use of filters, use of photo editing software or applications), self objectification (“During the day, I think about how I look many times”), facial dissatisfaction (Facial Appearance Concern, sub-scale of the Negative Physical Self Scale), body dissatisfaction (Body Areas Satisfaction Scale, sub-scale of the Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire) and covariates were assessed with questions about social media use. Questions were answered through the use of scales (over 5, 6, or 7 points).
Results showed that selfie-editing predicted increases in self-objectification and appearance concerns over time. Selfie-viewing predicted increases in self-objectification and facial dissatisfaction, but not body dissatisfaction. Adolescents’ facial dissatisfaction positively predicted selfie-viewing and selfie-editing, but not necessarily selfie-posting. Furthermore, higher self-objectification predicted an increased frequency of selfie-posting over time among adolescents. Overall, selfie-posting had no predicting role on self-objectification or appearance concerns: selfie-posting appears to be less harmful to one’s opinion about one’s appearance than selfie-viewing and selfie-editing.