Sex Roles

, Volume 81, Issue 5–6, pp 385–397 | Cite as

Body Surveillance on Instagram: Examining the Role of Selfie Feedback Investment in Young Adult Women’s Body Image Concerns

  • Chelsea P. ButkowskiEmail author
  • Travis L. Dixon
  • Kristopher Weeks
Original Article


Selfies are self-taken self-portrait photographs captured with mobile phones, and they are among the most common forms of self-expression on the photo-based social network Instagram. Selfies display their subject’s face or body to social media followers and friends, making them particularly appearance-oriented images. As with other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, Instagram posts garner feedback in the form of likes” and comments from online audiences. When applied to selfies, such feedback can be interpreted as aggregated evaluations of their subject’s physical appearance. We employ objectification theory to explore how value placed on selfie feedback among young women relates to markers of body image disturbance, including body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, and bulimia action tendencies. We conducted an online survey of 177 English-speaking young adult (18–30 years-old) female Instagram users who were recruited through MTurk and who post selfies to examine the relationship between investment in selfie feedback and body image disturbance. We found that women who reported higher investment in selfie feedback were more likely to express body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness through the indirect influence of body surveillance, but this effect did not extend to bulimic tendencies. Our findings suggest that young adult female Instagram users who value audience responses to their selfies are more likely to exhibit disordered eating attitudes and intentions.


Selfie-posting Self-objectification Body image Eating disorders Social media 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants

This research project involved human participants. The authors certify that this project received approval from the Institutional Review Board at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Informed Consent

The authors certify that in accordance with the guidelines of the Institutional Review Board at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, all participants provided informed consent before participating in this study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CommunicationUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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