Instagram and Self-Presentation: Identifying the Relationship and Effects on Mental Health (INSPIRE Mental Health)

Objective The purpose of this study is to investigate the reasons why and how participants who identify as women use the social networking platform, Instagram, and how this affects them in relation to their psychological well-being (including but not limited to their anxiety). From this study, we will be able to identify the relationship between the usage of Instagram and the psychological well-being and anxiety levels of users.
Eligibility Criteria Individuals who identify as women between the ages of 19-24, identify as active users (use Instagram an average of at least 6 hrs a week), have public profiles, post on Instagram at least every 2 weeks, and can read and speak English.
Potential Risks There are no risks to the participants apart from the risks taken in using Instagram.
Study Involvement Participants in this study will be asked to complete a survey pertaining to their views on themselves and social media.
End date September 30, 2022 (subject to change)
Contact Interested participants can reach out to Mallorie Tam at mallorie.ta[email protected] and Alonso Daboub at [email protected] to learn more and register for the study.

Background

Inspire Mental Health

Over the past decade, social media has been increasingly embedded into the lives of generations growing up with access to smartphones. Daily sharing of information including photos, videos, and writing has become commonplace among all communities participating on social networking sites, especially among younger generations. This participation can have a host of effects for the user, some of which may have an impact on psychological well-being. This study looks to explore the effects of Instagram on the psychological well-being of users on the platform.

Social media, social comparison, and authenticity

Participation on social networking sites facilitates engagement in social comparison. The social comparison theory postulates that individuals have an internal drive to compare themselves in relation to others around them. Social media provides the opportunity for the sharing of personal photos and videos and allows users access to the same media shared by other people. This allows for comparison of one’s account and self to the images and online entities curated by other users. These accounts, however, exist on a spectrum of authenticity wherein users may curate their best photos to create strongly positive online entities. Thus, comparison to these entities has the potential to negatively affect users.

Effects on women

Comparison of oneself to others on social media has been shown to have negative effects of the self=image and mental well-being of users. Specifically, a large body of literature looks at the detrimental effects of women’s body image and self-esteem due to exposure to images posted on sites like Facebook and Instagram. This literature indicates that exposure to idealized and potentially inauthentic images of others on social media can lead to lower mood and negative body image. Exposure to these idealized images can also lead to upward social comparison and facial dissatisfaction for women which can in turn result in substantial negative impacts on psychological well-being.

Purpose and goals

This study seeks to build on previous research and explore the effects of social media usage on the psychological wellbeing of Instagram users identifying as women. Given that Instagram is an especially image-based application, we seek to explore how their usage affects their self-image and psychological well-being. By using EPA metrics generated from the Affect Control Theory, we will evaluate how Instagram usage affects users’ opinions of themselves, their accounts, and the accounts of others and how this in turn affects their mental states.

Looking forward

Findings from this study will contribute to the growing body of literature exploring the effects of social media usage on mental health. These results will also be important for future interventions in social networking usage to create healthy, sustainable frameworks for using Instagram in the future. We hope this study can facilitate healthier online environments as well as healthier habits in social media use.