Learning How to Research: A Study on Social Media and Body Image A brief summary of a class research project
February 21, 2019
One thing that many strategic and corporate communication majors love to discuss is social media. I often hear classmates discussing their Instagram followers and Snapchat stories, so it was no surprise that the students in my Fall 2018 Research Methods class voted on the topic of Social Media and Body Image to study for our course project. The purpose of the course project was to provide students with a fun and engaging opportunity to learn how to collect survey data and analyze said data via SPSS, which is basically Excel on steroids. The purpose of studying social media use and body image was to better understand how one’s social media use affects their self-worth, body image, and social comparison orientation, or how they compare themselves to others. The entire class contributed to creating our research questions and hypothesis through their homework assignments, while some students such as myself researched and examined previous research on social media and body image. Our hypothesis and research questions were written by students in the class while Dr. LaBelle helped us along by finding scales to base our survey questions on. Once our Google Survey was created, the class of 35 students sent it out to their friends, collecting 214 responses. Since one respondent failed to complete the survey, we were left with 213 responses to analyze in SPSS. The majority of our sample (N = 213) can be described as white (n = 136), female (n = 164), and involved in Greek life (n = 114).
Our first hypothesis stated that there was a relationship between the number of social media posts one has and (a) self-worth, (b) body image and (c), social comparison orientation. In other words, how does the number of posts one has on social media relate to the way one may view themselves and how they compare themselves with others? The results of our analysis found that the more posts one has on social media, the less self-worth they have. In addition, having more posts was related to being more likely to compare oneself with others. However, there was no relationship between the number of posts one had and their perceptions of body image.
Our second hypothesis stated that the there was a relationship between the amount of “likes” one has on social media and (a) self-worth, (b) body image, and (c) social comparison orientation. The results of our analysis found that social media users were more likely to compare themselves to those with more likes. However, there was no effect on one’s self-worth or their body image.
Finally, our third hypothesis stated that there is a related social media engagement (i.e. the amount of time one spends on social media) and (a) self-worth, (b) body image, and (c) social comparison orientation. The results of our analysis found that the more time one spent on social media, the worse one’s self-worth was. The opposite is also true, as we found that the less time one spent on social media, the higher one’s perception of self-worth was. We also found that more social media led to higher social comparison. However, we did not find a significant relationship between social media activity and perceptions of body image.
To put it simply, all three of our hypothesis were only partially supported. Our study found no significant relationships between social media use and body image. However, the results of our study found evidence for the relationship between social media use and one’s perceptions of self-worth, and how one compares themselves with others.