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How Does The Use Of The Social Media Platform Instagram Influence Teenage Girls’ Body-Esteem?

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The social media platform Instagram, which is mostly a visual social networking site has risen notably over the last few years. Currently, it is the most favored application for the sharing of pictures. Eventually, in 2018 The Royal Society for Public Health named Instagram the SNS with the most negative impact on adolescents raising heavy concerns. When taking a look at American teenage girls, 53% of 13 year-olds were unsatisfied with their body. This number increased to 78% when talking to 17 year-olds. Taking these facts into account, it raises strong concerns about the relationship between the Social media platform Instagram and teenagers’ body – esteem, which is to define “as the appraisal and presentation of a person’s body. This review will take a close look at nine current sources by comparing and analyzing the similarities and differences as well as reviewing them. The sources chosen for this review aimed to find out to what extent adolescent girls’ body-esteem was affected by interacting with the platform. The studies found, mostly covered only one of the discussed aspects. However, they linked to each other and were therefore suitable for this review. With this in mind, this literature review will focus on answering the research question: How does the use of the social media platform Instagram influence teenage girls’ body-esteem. The main aspects, that this review will evaluate, include the new trend ‘fitspiration’, the beauty standards set by celebrities and lastly, the sexualization of young girls in social media.

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These days ‘fitspiration’, a newly offered “trend designed to inspire viewers towards a healthier lifestyle by promoting exercise and healthy food” can be seen all over the different social networking sites, especially on Instagram. Currently, the corresponding Hashtag ‘fitspiration’ gathers more than 16 million posts. A vast majority of these pictures on Instagram following the above-named hashtag represent slim and fit women advocating only one certain body type to be healthy. However, as research showed especially teens found themselves feeling crestfallen and regarded the pictured women with envy when comparing their own bodies to those projected to be ‘healthy’. Similar findings were conducted by Tiggemann et al., where the outcome of a survey showed how the negative mood increased after the exposure to ‘fitspiration’ pictures. Additionally, the Royal Society for Public Health conducted a survey showing that teenagers themselves rated Instagram’s influence on body-image and perception as exceedingly bad. Compared to other social media platforms, Instagram polled worst. These outcomes of the conducted surveys clearly observe how the trend of ‘fitspiration’ did the direct opposite: Rather than inspiring and motivating, it demoralized young girls and created a feeling of insecurity amongst them.

Manipulation of images Instagram has become a renowned platform for defining the beauty standards of our century. With thousands of Celebrities and influencers sharing photos of their hourglass shape or flawless makeup, especially adolescent girls’ body-esteem is affected. Indeed, 88% of teenage girls from a survey conducted in Singapore stated that they were specifically affected by the media’s perception of beauty. With various photo editing applications and programs, the market has created a chance for everyone to follow those high set standards. However, young girls who have been shown edited and manipulated pictures appeared to have a lower body satisfaction than teenagers who were confronted with the originals. Schurr, Berry and Walker detected a similar outcome: Besides realizing that the images shown to participants were manipulated and edited, the students still reported having negative feelings about their own physique after being exposed to such images. Furthermore, participants stated after the experiment, how they experienced considering what to eat and feeling envious of the edited person in the shown picture. In summary, this means that exposing young girls to edited pictures of their idols influences the way they appraise their own body.


Another essential aspect which can be observed after the use of Instagram of teenage girls is the overly sexual presentation of their own body and the way they perceive body-image on social media. Specifically, Instagram has shown that its uploaded content is more sexualized than on any other social media platforms, such as Facebook etc. When it comes to publicly uploading images, research has discovered that females would objectify themselves to a higher extent than girls portraying themselves in private. This can be seen as a consequence of the discovery that having a more revealing profile picture was acknowledged more attractive. This Acknowledgement can be shown through ‘liking’ someone’s post. Moreover, as Ramsey et al. showed, the more sexualized an uploaded picture was, the more likes it received and the more friends/followers the person go. Lastly, the connection between self–objectification and one’s body-esteem was examined in a study by Strelan, Mehaffey and Tiggemann: when objectifying oneself a participant’s body satisfaction diminished acutely. Concluding, when using social media an intensive objectification of the user takes place, which is linked to the reduction of one’s body satisfaction and therefore body-esteem.


Due to the fact that this literature review is constricted, some aspects relating to body-esteem such as for instance its important connection to sel-esteem could not be discussed. Furthermore, unfortunately, the research conducted in this field is rather limited, especially when it comes to the positive effects of social media on teenage girls’ body-esteem. Hence, further research specifically on the positive aspects and effects of social media including Instagram would create more opportunities to understand and support teenagers’ use of social networking sites. Moreover, as most studies and reports focus only on the short-term effects of the negative effects of social media, it might be interesting to see the long-term effects as well, since one has to deal with them at one point anyway.

Finally, by closely examining and analyzing the selected sources, it can be concluded, that the social media platform Instagram has an overall great negative influence on adolescent girls and the way they generally perceive their own body and present themselves online, leaving many dissatisfied and demoralized.

11 February 2020

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