The University of Glasgow has worked on a study showing the relationship between women’s insecurity and how they use social media.
A recent study in partnership with the University of Glasgow, the University of the West of Scotland and the University of Strathclyde has shown that women avoid looking at Instagram images that reflect their own areas of insecurity. The study examined the eye movements of participants as they viewed a variety of images on Instagram, which featured other women’s faces and bodies of different shapes and sizes.
From the three rounds of Instagram pictures, containing distinct face and body images of underweight, average and overweight women, participants paid more attention to other women’s bodies than their faces and preferred images of underweight and average women, rather than overweight women. For body-only images, underweight body images were viewed for longer than the other two categories, with the least amount of time spent viewing overweight bodies. The idea of beauty and attractiveness is most present in the face-only images as participants took preference to the faces of average women, however fixating on figures for longer than faces, giving the impression that there is an obsession with weight-related idealisations and the concept of slimness.
The study concluded that female viewers’ perceptions of their own bodies are typically of high importance and will influence where their attention will be drawn to while viewing images of others on social media. Additionally, it demonstrated the relationship between eye movement behaviour and body shape, body part and body satisfaction. This method is being used increasingly to investigate how women perceive themselves and others as well as highlight the potential damage, for example, lower body satisfaction and eating disorders, that these images on social media are causing.
On the back of the success of this study, researchers are calling for further studies into the phenomenon in other groups, including men, to gain a wider insight into social media’s effect across society and its influence on mental health and body insecurity.