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How Social Comparison on Social Media affects Body Image: a qualitative study by means of the Love or Break-up Letter Method

Foltynski, Isabel (2021) How Social Comparison on Social Media affects Body Image: a qualitative study by means of the Love or Break-up Letter Method.

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Abstract:Background. Nowadays usage of social media is embedded in daily life and hence the opportunity to engage in social comparison is increased. Most research concerning this topic is correlational and hence the role of social comparison on social media needs to be investigated in terms of its contributions to body image and related well-being, wherefore qualitative research can account. The goal of the current study is to gain insights in attitudes and experiences towards the social comparison processes on social media and to investigate the effects it has on body image and other variables, such as self-esteem or affect. Methods. The innovative, narrative “love and break-up letter method” was utilized among a sample of 27 participants (Mage = 24.26, SDage = 2.9), who wrote a love or break-up letter to their social media platform of choice regarding their body image. The letters were coded de- and inductively and subsequently examined by means of thematic analysis. Results. Upward comparison, particularly with influencers, was the most reported direction of social comparison. Effects of upward social comparison on the self, namely body dissatisfaction and negative emotions emerged. Participants emphasised that upward social comparison on social media poses a risk for body image and emotional well-being of other parties, particularly adolescents. To counteract detrimental effects of upward social comparison, diversification of the feed and awareness of negative consequences on body image and self-esteem were named. Discussion. Findings relating to the projection of risk vulnerability to others are discussed against the background of Cognitive Dissonance Theory (Festinger, 1962). The level of self-esteem of the comparer occurs to influence upward comparison on body image substantially, wherefor a prior assessment of self-esteem is recommended for future replication of the study.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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