Image, Appearance Rank High Among Social Network Users

THURSDAY March 10, 2011 -- Women who base their self-worth on their looks tend to share more photos online and to maintain a larger number of friends on social networking Web sites, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that women place more importance on their image and appearance than men, and that some women may use social networking sites as a means of competing for attention, said study author Michael A. Stefanone of the University at Buffalo in New York.

"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 university news release.

He and his colleagues examined the online behavior of 311 male and female participants who averaged 23 years old. The researchers checked such things as the amount of time spent managing online profiles, the number of photos they shared, the size of their online networks and how "promiscuous" they were in terms of friending behavior.

"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," Stefanone said.

"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 -- spend less time online," he added.

For them, seeking attention is not a priority in their use of social media.

The study was published online in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

More information

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission offers online social networking safety tips for young people.

Posted: March 2011


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