Date of Award
Master of Science
Communication and Information
Nick Geidner, Stuart Brotman
The present study unveils several themes that detail female college students’ experience, usage, and social comparison trends on Instagram, with a particular emphasis on body image. Compared to a study conducted by Meta Inc., which found that social comparison disproportionately affected young females (Social Comparison Exploratory Research, 2020), this study highlights insights directly expressed by young females in college concerning their past and current experiences on the platform. With over 90% of women in colleges across the United States reporting body and image dissatisfaction (Pritchard & Cramblitt, 2014), this study aims to contribute to existing literature, showcasing whether female students have experienced negative and/or harmful outturns while using Instagram and how usage, perception and effects have changed over time. The research consisted of participants (n=13) consenting to 30-to-40-minute interviews, where data was collected in multiple categories, including past versus present perceptions, Instagram use, body image, and social comparison theory. Emerged themes concluded that many female participants compared themselves to others on the platform, resulting in mixed positive and negative outcomes. Throughout the analysis, it was showcased that several expressed they believed the platform algorithm directly contributed to their negative experiences, specifically in relation to advertisements and the lack of representation and diversity throughout the platform. However, the algorithm was not measured. In addition, the evidence presented in the present study showed that many users shared that they felt maturity and development played a key and significant role in countering unhealthy Instagram habits.
Hill, Paige K., "INSTAGRAM IDEALS: COLLEGE WOMEN'S BODY IMAGE AND SOCIAL COMPARISON. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2022.