The millenia-old contention that women care more about their appearance and use it in competition is still alive in the digital age. A new study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking contends that females who base their self worth on their appearance tend to share more photos online and maintain larger networks on online social networking sites.
Its purpose was to investigate variables that explain specific online behavior on social network sites. Among other things, the team 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 contingencies, measured by the CSW Scale (contingences of self worth) developed by Crocker and Wolfe are considered internal and external sources of self-esteem, hypothesized to affect an individual's sense of self worth. They say that contingencies of self-worth explain much of the social behavior enacted online.
In the study, 311 participants with an average age of 23.3 years -- 49.8 percent of whom were female -- completed a questionnaire measuring their contingencies of self worth. The subjects were also queried as to their typical behaviors on Facebook.
"Those whose self esteem is based on public-based contingencies (defined here as others' approval, physical appearance and outdoing others in competition) were more involved in online photo sharing, and those whose self-worth is most contingent on appearance have a higher intensity of online photo sharing," says assistant professor in Communications Dr. Michael A. Stefanone from the University of Buffalo.
They contend that the women in this study who base their self worth on appearance were also are the most prolific photo sharers.
"Participants whose self worth is based on private-based contingencies (defined in this study as academic competence, family love and support, and being a virtuous or moral person)," says Stefanone, "spend less time online." For these people, social media are less about attention seeking behavior.
Stefanone says, "Contingencies on which people assess their self worth represent a new approach to understanding how personal identities are developed and maintained. This study provides a framework for future explorations of identity construction, social interaction and media use in a rapidly changing communication environment."
Although it's stereotypical and might have been predicted," he says, "it 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 study, "Contingencies of Self-Worth and Social-Networking-Site Behavior," was co-authored by Derek Lackaff, PhD, University of Texas, Austin, and Devan Rosen, PhD, University of Hawaii, Manoa.
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