Published: 20th February 2020
If you're obsessively examining, editing your selfies, you have a problem
The study analysed the selfie-taking habits of 278 teenage girls, ages 14 to 17, who completed an online survey in which they answered questions about selfies
While taking and sharing selfies on social media may not be linked to poor body image or appearance concerns, obsessively analysing and editing the photos may be linked to self-objectification, according to a study which assessed the selfie-taking habits of nearly 300 teenage girls.
The study, published in the Journal of Children and Media, noted that selfie editing, and time invested in creating and selecting the perfect selfie were both related to self-objectification, which led to body shame, appearance anxiety, and more negative appearance evaluations in teen girls.
"Self-objectification is the idea that you come to think of yourself as an external object to be viewed by other people," said study senior author Jennifer Stevens Aubrey from the University of Arizona in the US. "Your orientation to the world is not an internal one, where you're thinking about how you feel or what you know, or what you can do, but rather what you look like to other people," Aubrey said.
She said the focus on taking the perfect selfie could be encouraging girls to learn to see themselves as external objects for people to look at and admire. The study analysed the selfie-taking habits of 278 teenage girls, ages 14 to 17, who completed an online survey in which they answered questions about how often they share selfies on social media, and how often they use specific photo editing techniques.
These methods included reducing red-eye or using an app to smooth their skin or make them appear thinner. The participants also responded to a series of statements designed to measure how much time and effort they spend selecting which selfies to share on social media -- which the researchers referred to as their level of "selfie investment.
" The girls also completed a series of questionnaires designed to measure their levels of self-objectification and appearance concerns, the study noted. "Our main finding was that we really shouldn't be too worried about kids who take selfies and share them. That's not where the negative effects come from. It's the investment and the editing that yielded negative effects," Aubrey said.
"Selfie editing and selfie investment predicted self-objectification, and girls who self-objectify were more likely to feel shameful about their bodies or anxious about their appearance," she added. The scientists said they focussed on adolescent girls because they are especially vulnerable to self-objectification.
"Girls are socialised in a way that makes them self-objectify to a greater degree than boys would. That's a pretty consistent finding," said study lead author Larissa Teran from the University of Arizona. According to the researchers, girls are also more likely than boys to experience negative consequences, such as body image issues, as the result of self-objectification, which can in turn lead to problems like depression and eating disorders.
"Self-objectification is the pathway to so many things in adolescence that we want to prevent," Aubrey said. "So, interventions really should focus on how we can encourage girls to develop an awareness of themselves that's not solely hinged on what they look like to other people," she noted. The researchers also noted that there could be different motivations for sharing selfies.
"Selfies are a part of the media landscape, but you should post them for reasons other than trying to get people to admire your appearance or your body," Aubrey said. Citing an example, she said posting a selfie on vacation or with friends may be more about sharing an experience than focusing on appearance. "Selfies aren't bad. Just don't obsess," Teran added.