A Qualitative Study Exploring Female College Students' Instagram Use and Body Image

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Research demonstrates that mainstream media negatively impacts women's body image; less is known about social media, specifically Instagram. The purpose of the study was to explore how female college students use Instagram, and if using Instagram impacts body image. Since little is known, a descriptive qualitative approach was used. Six face-to-face focus groups with a total of 27 participants, aged 18-22 years, were conducted. The data were analyzed using a thematic analysis. Three themes related to Instagram use emerged: effortful posting, promotion of self, and seeking engagement. Participants put substantial effort into what they were posting, were careful to select the best images of themselves, and placed a lot of importance on receiving likes and comments. Three themes surfaced pertaining to body image: responding to beauty ideals, comparing self with others, and display of self. Participants recognized and strove to adhere to a variety of beauty standards; some discussed experiencing appearance dissatisfaction when trying to measure up to these ideals. Moreover, participants frequently compared their looks or the number of likes/comments with others. Additionally, when posting photos of self, participants took an audience perspective, expressing concern with how others perceived their appearance.

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Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking