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Women who post lots of photos of themselves on Facebook value appearance, need attention, study finds

March 10, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
  • Putting more photos of yourself on Facebook translates to valuing physical appearance.
Putting more photos of yourself on Facebook translates to valuing physical… (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images )

A study on how people use social networking websites such as Facebook confirms what many of us suspected. Women who post loads of photos of themselves on their sites are conveying some strong personal characteristics, according to new research. These women are more likely to base their self-worth on appearance and use social networking to compete for attention.

The study involved 311 men and women with an average age of 23. In order to better understand aspects of social networking behavior, the researchers looked at the amount of time subjects spent managing profiles, the number of photos they shared, the size of their online networks and how promiscuous they were in terms of “friending” behavior. The participants completed a questionnaire designed to measure self worth and were asked about their typical behaviors on Facebook.

There were differences between women and men. Overall, the results suggest that, compared with men, females identify more strongly with their image and appearance and use Facebook to compete for attention, said the lead author of the study, Michael A. Stefanone, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Buffalo.

The women who had the largest social networks and posted more photos of themselves were more highly vested in their appearance.

“The results suggest persistent differences in the behavior of men and women that result from a cultural focus on female image and appearance,” Stefanone said in a news release. “[I]t is disappointing to me that in the year 2011 so many young women continue to assert their self worth via their physical appearance — in this case, by posting photos of themselves on Facebook as a form of advertisement. Perhaps this reflects the distorted value pegged to women’s looks throughout the popular culture and in reality programming from ‘The Bachelor’ to ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians.’ ”

The authors also speculated that posting a lot of photos of oneself in the company of other people “may serve to communicate the importance of particular relationships because these bonds may provide security regarding ones appearance and self worth.”

The people who tended to base their self worth on things like academic competence, family love and support, and being a virtuous or moral person spent less time online and showed less interest in attention-seeking through social media.

The study was published this week in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. Here's a You Tube explanation of the study.

Related: Are you so awesome you'd friend yourself? Facebook found to be a great esteem builder

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