Selfies and Self-Esteem: A Study in Social Media

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Have you ever seen selfies others have posted and thought they look better than you? Four psychology students asked this question to 28 participants in an experiment testing whether selfies on social media affect self-esteem.

Ryan Lofthouse, Sadie Egbert, Chelsie Crane, and Kassidy Baird, conducted an experiment this semester testing whether posting selfies to social media affects a person’s self-esteem.

The experiment involved participants taking a selfie immediately after getting out of bed in the morning, without any sort of preparation, and posting it to all of their social media accounts. Participants’ individual levels of self-esteem were judged in approximately 12 categories or “domains” of their perceived level of self-esteem.

Group member Kassidy Baird explained her interest in the subject, saying, “Typically people post the best about themselves on social media. I was just curious what would happen when people see the worst of themselves and how other people would take it.”

When asked how the group came up with the idea for this experiment, Baird explained, “I just think because self-esteem and social media have been under a lot of scrutiny, and a lot of studies find that the more you use social media, the lower your self-esteem is.”

Another group member, Chelsie Crane, traveled to a psychology conference in Idaho with Professor Marsing and other psychology students and presented their findings in a poster session where she and her group received much praise from other attendees and even from the president of the RMPA (Rocky Mountain Psychological Association). Crane described presenting their findings, saying, “There were a lot of people and reactions, because it’s contrary to normal belief that the more Facebook friends they had, the higher their self-esteem.”

After tabulating the results, the group was surprised to find that the results were the opposite of what previous research had shown, and what they themselves had expected. Group member Sadie Egbert illustrated their surprise, saying, “We originally thought, starting the study, that people’s self-esteem would go down initially and closer to the end it would come up and surpass what it had originally started as. But it didn’t go down. It just went up from the beginning.”

However, the group was not completely satisfied with their results. When asked what they would do differently in another experiment, Egbert commented, “Time was the biggest factor.  If we were to start earlier and maybe do it for a longer duration it would have been better.”

The group also had a message to the students of Snow College, encouraging research and pushing yourself. Crane said, “It’s really stressful but it’s so rewarding to see the results and find out that it’s validated and you weren’t doing all this work for nothing.”

Professor Nick Marsing commented “This is something we really try to do a lot in the psychology program.  A lot of it is basically the students in introductory psychology classes get an idea and then move into an upper level class, and pretty much all of our upper level classes are invited to participate in research, to form ideas, to spend time working on them, and coming up with what we’re going to do.” Marsing continued, inviting students to participate “If students are interested, even Psychology Club is a great way to get involved, if they say ‘Hey, I want to do research’ because then we can get those individuals involved if that’s something they’re interested in.”

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