Spending too much time on Instagram leads to anxiety about body image three months later, according to new research from Federation University.
Women who are heavily emotionally invested in the social media platform are anxious about their body image and also feel their bodies had more 'defects' while people who felt their bodies had more 'defects' became more emotionally invested in Instagram.
Dr Danielle Wagstaff, who looks at how social media relates to the way women feel about themselves and compete with one another, said it was unclear whether social media use caused body image issues, or whether people with body image issues use social media more.
If you tie a lot of self-esteem and your identity in Instagram, then three months later you feel more crap about your body.Dr Danielle Wagstaff
Her research, published in the American Psychological Association journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, delved in to the link between Instagram use and a range of psychological variables in two parts.
Almost 130 women aged 18 to 35 completed a series of surveys related to mental health outcomes and self-perceptions, with results showing that the frequency of Instagram use was correlated with depressive symptoms, self-esteem, general and physical appearance anxiety and body dissatisfaction.
In the second part of the research the women viewed either beauty, fitness or travel Instagram images. Those who viewed the beauty and fitness images had much lower self-rated attractiveness and the decrease correlated with anxiety, depressive symptoms, self-esteem, and body dissatisfaction.
Dr Wagstaff said while there had been many studies on the impact of social media on self perception, there had been little research done over time.
"The results showed that your emotional investment in Instagram predicted anxiety about body image three months later," she said.
"If you tie a lot of self-esteem and your identity in Instagram, then three months later you feel more crap about your body."
Dr Wagstaff chose Instagram to study because of its predominantly visual nature.
"It's most purely a visual platform so it really lends itself to this kind of physical appearance comparison," she said. "It's a really aesthetic platform - people just really post photos of themselves, touched up, and there's a lot of content on there to do with body image, lots of fitness, body positivity influencers."
Dr Wagstaff hoped results from the study will help further understanding of the nuances of social media, with much research showing how much time spent on social media is linked to poor mental wellbeing.
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"This is about understanding what are predictors of poor mental health online and how we can teach young women and girls what is healthy engagement and what is not healthy.
"If you feel like your whole identity is tied up in Instagram, clearly it's a predictor of poor body image."
She said the findings don't suggest we stop using social media, but to be cautious of how much our sense of self-worth is invested in the platform and we should avoid comparing ourselves to others on Instagram.
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