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The Impact of Social Media on Women's Self-Image and Self-Representation


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Presentation from APA National Convention in San Diego: the impact of social media on women's self-image and self-representation. Part of a symposium co-sponsored by Division 46 (Media Psychology) and Division 35 (Psychology of Women) by Dr. Pamela Rutledge

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  • A couple of years ago HP commissioned a survey which revealed that two thirds of us are “deeply embarrassed” by many of our photos, with only one person in three being happy with almost every photo. Most likely to hate their photos are females, aged between 35 and 44. The minority who are satisfied with every photo are men under 35.

    What is peculiar that even those women who are happy with their reflection in the mirror tend to destroy most photos of themselves. Just look at your ID photo and you will see why.

    The question is would you have your photos retouched if you knew that all those temporary and accidental imperfections of your portrait (blemishes, double chin resulting from tense posing or intensified dark under-eye circles resulting from poor lighting) could be easily removed at $3.50 per photo? And this is what retouching for Main Street is coming to. Sadly, a lot of people are under the false impression that retouching is the butchered images that pop up in popular magazines from time to time and that only ad agencies and celebrities can afford it.

    Alex Wise
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The Impact of Social Media on Women's Self-Image and Self-Representation

  1. 1. Did You PhotoShop Your Facebook Picture? The Impact of Social Media on Self-Representation and Self-Image Pamela B. Rutledge, PhD, MBA Media Psychology Research Center Symposium on Women and Media: Global Perspectives on Promoting Social Change August 14, 2010,
  2. 2. Social Media has changed everything <ul><li>What we do isn’t new </li></ul><ul><li>How we can do it is new </li></ul><ul><li>This shift has fundamentally changed the experience of communications </li></ul><ul><li>This challenges the validity of our assumptions about the impact of mass media </li></ul>
  3. 3. Mass Media: One to Many
  4. 4. Social Media: Many to Many
  5. 5. Many Types of Social Media <ul><ul><li>Information searches </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Folksonomy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blogs & microblogs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wikis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social Networking </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Top 10 Websites Worldwide <ul><li>Google </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook </li></ul><ul><li>YouTube </li></ul><ul><li>Yahoo! </li></ul><ul><li>Windows Live </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Wikipedia </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>MSN </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter </li></ul>60% are social media sites
  7. 7. Broadband Access <ul><li>No longer a relevant indicator of Internet access </li></ul><ul><li>95% of people 18-29 years of age own cell phones </li></ul><ul><li>59% of Americans go online wirelessly </li></ul><ul><li>African Americans and Latinos outpace other groups with 87% using mobile devices for Internet access </li></ul>
  8. 8. Social Networking Explodes <ul><li>Facebook is a powerful example of the adoptions of social networking sites. </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook started in April 2004 </li></ul>
  9. 9. Facebook Today <ul><li>500 Million Active Users </li></ul><ul><li>50% log on to Facebook each day </li></ul><ul><li>Average user has </li></ul><ul><ul><li>130 friends </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Connected to 80 community pages, groups and events </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Creates 90 pieces of content each month </li></ul></ul><ul><li>More than 30 billion pieces of content shared each month. </li></ul>
  10. 10. The Big Question <ul><li>How has this new environment changed the way we think about ourselves? </li></ul><ul><li>Are we becoming savvy media consumers or do we pine for an airbrush? </li></ul>
  11. 11. Social Networking Site: Defining Characteristics <ul><ul><li>Network boundaries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Profile space </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilities for uploading content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability to form and display connections with individuals and groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability to browse and search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In-network communication </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. A Whole New World <ul><li>Information is on-demand and interactive </li></ul><ul><li>No more geographical or time constraints </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone has a voice </li></ul><ul><li>Messages can’t be controlled </li></ul><ul><li>No ability to restrict secondary uses </li></ul><ul><li>Information can be triangulated </li></ul><ul><li>Information is permanent and searchable </li></ul><ul><li>Shifting boundaries of public and private </li></ul>
  13. 13. Expectations in the New Environment <ul><li>Immediacy </li></ul><ul><li>Validation </li></ul><ul><li>Response </li></ul><ul><li>Connection </li></ul><ul><li>Authenticity </li></ul><ul><li>Transparency </li></ul><ul><li>Self-relevance </li></ul>“ We're tired of fembots. We can handle the truth.”
  14. 14. Celebrating Authenticity French Elle Magazine “ No Make-Up” Issue Jamie Lee Curtis Shares Her Real vs. Retouched Photos
  15. 15. Busting Fakes Ann Taylor, Ralph Lauren, Katie Couric and Redbook
  16. 16. Impact on Self-Image <ul><li>Most research on body image is pre-Facebook </li></ul><ul><li>Studies post-2004 suggest that </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Women and girls still have body image concerns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Media literacy isn’t working </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Media literacy with celebrities is the least convincing of all </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Photos of real women are everywhere </li></ul>
  17. 17. Assumptions <ul><li>People engage in social comparison </li></ul><ul><li>Information is increasingly self-relevant </li></ul><ul><li>Authenticity is valued </li></ul><ul><li>Social media and interactive technology change the locus of control </li></ul><ul><li>Self-efficacy influences global self-image </li></ul>
  18. 18. Pilot Study: Social Media & Body Image <ul><li>Theoretical: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>People engage in social comparison as a normal behavior </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self-efficacy influences global self-image </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Environmental: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Information is increasingly on-demand and self-relevant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Authenticity is valued </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social media and interactive technology change the locus of control </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Preliminary Results <ul><li>Hypotheses supported in preliminary data: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Women are more influenced by what their friends looks like than what celebrities and models looks like </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technological competence is positively correlated with positive self-appraisal of appearance </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Retouching Profile Photos <ul><li>85% felt little or no pressure to alter their profile photo </li></ul><ul><li>95% felt their photo looked just like them </li></ul><ul><li>Technical proficiency was irrelevant to whether or not someone retouched their photo </li></ul><ul><li>13% altered their photos </li></ul><ul><li>75% altered their photos to </li></ul>“ Look my best”
  21. 21. Before
  22. 22. After
  23. 23. Before & After
  24. 24. Summary <ul><li>Interactive and social media have changed the psychological experiences of communication </li></ul><ul><li>The shift from traditional to user-controlled information changes the impact </li></ul><ul><li>Individual action through production, control, and choice creates an environment of empowerment </li></ul><ul><li>Perceptions of personal competence are more effective in creating global self-esteem </li></ul><ul><li>Results indicate that competence can support positive body image </li></ul>
  25. 25. THANK YOU <ul><li>Pamela B. Rutledge, PhD, MBA </li></ul><ul><li>Media Psychology Research Center </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Email: </li></ul><ul><li>Phone: 949-544-1300 </li></ul>