Picture Perfect: The Relationship between Selfie Behaviors, Self-Objectification, and Depressive Symptoms

Abstract

Social media use has been linked to depression, although there is evidence that how one uses social media matters. Self-objectification may influence social media-related behaviors, such as taking many pictures before posting and using photo editing. These may be related to negative outcomes, perhaps because they contribute to feeling disingenuous online. These relationships were explored in the context of selfie posting on Instagram among a sample of young U.S. women who completed self-report measures. Mediation analyses were used to determine whether self-objectification, operationalized as body surveillance, predicted depressive symptoms serially mediated by either (a) taking multiple pictures before posting or (b) photo-manipulation as well as through feeling disingenuous online. In the first model, body surveillance predicted taking multiple selfies before posting which, in turn, related to feelings of depression. Taking multiple selfies before posting was not related to feelings of deception. In the second model, there was a significant four-variable indirect effect wherein self-objectification predicted depression through photo manipulation and feelings of disingenuousness online. The present study shows that there are specific behaviors that women, especially those who self-objectify, engage in before actively using social media that can relate to negative consequences. Understanding how self-objectification impacts social media behaviors can help women became more aware of their engagement in potentially problematic behaviors and work toward self-acceptance.

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Correspondence to Miriam Liss.

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Lamp, S.J., Cugle, A., Silverman, A.L. et al. Picture Perfect: The Relationship between Selfie Behaviors, Self-Objectification, and Depressive Symptoms. Sex Roles 81, 704–712 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-019-01025-z

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Keywords

  • Self-objectification
  • Body surveillance
  • Social media use
  • Depression
  • Photo editing
  • Selfies
  • Self-presentation