Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Session 19: Social Media and Social Comparisons
Friday, 08/Sep/2017:
10:30am - 11:30am

Session Chair: Philipp Masur
Location: Room CIV 165

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How “Likes” function as social rewards and determine social comparisons

Astrid Rosenthal-von der Pütten1, Matthias Hastall2, Christian Meske1, Timo Heinrich1, Sören Köcher2, Franziska Labrenz1, Sebastian Ocklenburg3

1University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany; 2TU Dortmund University, Germany; 3Ruhr University Bochum, Germany

Facebook “Likes”, a numeric representation of social acceptance, can be seen as a public form of “online social currency”, signaling popularity and social acceptance, and might be important cues for individuals’ social comparisons with other users. We present an experiment (n=89; 59 female) that investigates the impact of Likes on users’ affect in a social comparison paradigm. Participants saw their own six selfies and twelve selfies of other people with and without Likes (number of Likes for each selfie were predefined), and evaluated them (e.g., likability of displayed person; likability of picture; number of expected Likes for picture; how justified the received number of Likes was). They also completed 12 social comparison trials, in which respondents saw two selfies with their respective number of Likes presented next two each other, one of them being their own selfie. There were four social comparison categories: Participants’ own selfie in a trial received either an absolute high (>25) or low (<25) number of likes and social comparisons could be either favorable (own selfie received more Likes) or unfavorable (other person’s selfie received more Likes). After each trail, participants indicated their affect on a 10-point Likert scale from “negative” to “positive”, and filled in a 12-item questionnaire providing a more precise assessment of their emotional state (cf. Dvash et al., 2010). Lastly, they had to decide whether to like the other person’s selfie.

Analyses were performed trial-wise (1068 comparison trials = 89 participants x 12 social comparison trials). We found a main effect for social comparison category on participants’ reported affective state (F(1064,3)=21.29, p <.001, n2p= .057). Post-hoc tests using Bonferroni correction revealed that participants felt significantly better after flattering social comparison (they received more Likes than the other person: absolute low relative gain M=7.82, SD=1.49; absolute high relative gain M=8.18, SD=1.33) compared to after unflattering social comparison (they received less Likes: absolute low relative loss M=7.18, SD=1.73; absolute high relative loss M=7.36, SD=1.79; post hoc tests p<.005). There were no differences between the two flattering social comparison categories (p=.061) or the two unflattering categories (p=1.0). We also found significant main effects for ten of the 12 emotional state items. After “winning” a social comparison trial, participants felt more happiness, less envy, more schadenfreude, less sadness, less bad after comparing with the other person, less inferiority, more superiority, less Missgunst, more relieve, and less likely to desire being “in the other person’s shoes.”

Besides, participants were not more likely to give a Like to another person’s selfie when it already received a high number of Likes. Like decisions were not determined by how participants rated their own selfie or by how (un)satisfied people were with their received likes. Indeed, ratings for the other person’s selfie predicted Like decisions: the more likable the person, the more positive the picture and the more Likes they expected the picture would receive, the more likely they decided to like the picture. Participants were also more likely to give a Like when they felt positive after the social comparison.

The Positive Side of Social Comparisons on SNS: How Envy Can Drive Inspiration on Instagram

Adrian Meier, Svenja Schäfer, Vanessea Melching, Kerstin Bonni

U of Mainz

Social network sites (SNS) can impair users’ well-being, particularly due to social comparison (de Vries et al., 2016; Lup et al., 2015; Steers et al., 2014) and negative emotions such as envy (Appel et al., 2016). So far, however, research has neglected the positive side of social comparisons and envy on SNS. Social comparisons, especially on creative photo-sharing platforms such as Instagram, may increase both malicious and benign envy (H1; Lange & Crusius, 2015). While malicious envy comes with a hostile motivation to pull superior others down, benign envy motivates individuals to self-improve.

A potentially prevalent motivational outcome of such benign envy on Instagram may be inspiration (Ouwerkerk & Johnson, 2016). Inspiration describes an intrinsic, yet stimulus-evoked approach motivation that drives individuals to transcend their current selves (Thrash & Elliot, 2003). Experiencing inspiration is thus seen as highly beneficial for one’s (affective) well-being (Thrash et al., 2010). Being exposed to many-faceted aesthetic visual content (e.g., on travelling, sports, photography, design), users can experience inspiration on Instagram in their daily lives. Inspiration on Instagram should then enhance affective well-being (H2).

Building on our reasoning for H1, we further assume malicious envy as an outcome of social comparison processes to be negatively and benign envy to be positively related to inspiration (H3). Finally, as prior research has found SNS uses and effects to be heavily dependent on self-esteem (Tazghini & Siedlecki, 2013) and narcissism (Moon et al., 2016), we include these traits as controls in our research model.

Method & Results

We investigated these hypotheses with structural equation modelling (SEM) based on data from N = 385 Instagram users (Mage = 22.64, 82% female). Participants were recruited via snowball sampling on SNS. All constructs were measured with multi-item Likert-scales (Table 1).

Notably, participants reported relatively high levels of inspiration on Instagram on average (Table 1). Results of the SEM analysis (Figure 1) support H1-H3, even after controlling for the effects of trait self-esteem and narcissism on all other variables. The frequency of social comparison on Instagram increased both malicious (β = .35, p < .01) and benign envy (β = .52, p < .001). While malicious envy decreased inspiration (β = -.11, p < .05), benign envy was the strongest driver of inspiration in the model (β = .46, p < .001). Inspiration on Instagram, in turn, was positively related to positive affect (β = .18, p < .05).


This study supports the assumption that comparisons on SNS may contribute to users’ affective well-being by increasing benign envy, which in turn is an important driver of inspiration. We thus extend prior SNS research that has so far exclusively focused on the negative side of social comparison and (malicious) envy. Our results indicate that mundane forms of Instagram use can provide users with new ideas and impulses, potentially motivating them to strive for personal growth. While certainly limited by the cross-sectional nature of our convenience sample, this study offers new avenues for (experimental) investigations of the positive effects of SNS for well-being.

How my selfie impacts me: Interrelations between selfie-behaviors, body image, and well-being in young females.

Nadia Bij de Vaate1, Jolanda Veldhuis1, Jessica Alleva2, Micha Keijer1, Elly Konijn1

1Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands, The; 2Universiteit Maastricht, Netherlands, The

Introduction. Blurring borders between offline and online social life and the vast popularity of social networking sites (SNS) raises questions for how SNS-use relates to psychological health. Likewise, the omnipresence of selfies on SNS – a form of appearance-exposure - also raises questions regarding psychological health. This study aimed to investigate the relationships between body image, self-objectification, self-esteem and various selfie-behaviors among young women. The current study contributes to the present literature on SNS-use, selfies, and body image in two ways. First, the majority of research on SNS and body image has proposed that engaging in SNS, including posting selfies, increases negative body image and higher self-objectification (Holland & Tiggemann, 2016; McLean et al., 2015). Second, the current study contributes to the extant literature by investigating various aspects of selfie-behavior, including preoccupation, selection, editing, and posting of selfies. We hypothesized that lower body image (i.e., higher levels of body dissatisfaction, H1a, and lower levels of body appreciation, H1b), higher levels of self-objectification (H2), and lower self-esteem (H3) enhances engagement in various selfie-behaviors.

Method. Participants were 179 women who responded to our online survey (N = 179; Mage= 21.54, SDage= 2.05). After completing an electronic informed consent sheet, participants completed measures concerning demographics and daily internet and SNS-use. Subsequently, they completed measures concerning selfie-behaviors (i.e., pre-occupation, selection, editing and posting), body image (i.e., body dissatisfaction; body appreciation), self-objectification, and self-esteem.

Results. To fit the empirical data to our proposed model and test our hypotheses, we used Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). Findings indicate that neither higher levels of body dissatisfaction nor lower levels of self-esteem predict higher engagement in selfie-behaviors. Hence, H1a and H3 were not supported. However, in contrast to H1b, higher levels of body appreciation significantly predicted higher intensities of self-editing and selfie-posting (body appreciation did not influence pre-occupation with selfies or selecting selfies). H2 was fully supported by our results, that is, self-objectification significantly predicts all aspects of selfie-behavior. It is important to note that the analyses indicated that body dissatisfaction and body appreciation are not merely two opposing dimensions for one and the same construct, which is in line with current research on positive body image (cf. Tylka & Wood-Barcalow, 2015). Moreover, as prior research has positioned SNS-use as a precursor, we also tested the reversed model, showing poorer results.

Discussion. This study showed some interesting results in other directions than commonly studied in the field of body image and presented insights into the relatively new phenomenon of selfie-behavior. Findings showed that body image concerns may not only result as an outcome from specific media usage, but body appreciation and self-objectification particularly serve as motives preceding pre-occupation with selfies, deliberate selection and editing of selfies before online posting. Among the female selfie-makers in our study, body appreciation was strongly and positively related to their self-esteem. Future research is needed to further specify the interrelatedness of body image concerns and engaging in various selfie-behaviors.

Privacy concerns decrease self-disclosure on Social Network Sites: A longitudinal analysis of the privacy paradox

Tobias Dienlin, Philipp Masur, Sabine Trepte

Universität Hohenheim, Germany

In recent years, social network sites (SNSs) have increasingly gained in importance—to such an extent that, nowadays, large parts of personal, social, and professional matters are being transacted on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. As a result, understanding the cognitive mechanisms that determine why people use SNSs has become one of the most central endeavors of media research lately. In the beginning, it was proposed that people’s behaviors on SNSs are somewhat paradoxical (Barnes, 2006) and that they cannot be explained with cognitive variables such as privacy concerns. More recently, however, it has been shown that antecedents such as privacy concerns or attitudes regarding self-disclosure can predict different SNS behaviors (e.g., Dienlin & Trepte, 2015). A recent meta-analysis based on 37 studies that had analyzed the relation between privacy concerns and information sharing found that both variables had a small but significant negative correlation (r = -.13; Baruh, Secinti, & Cemalcilar, 2017). However, to date, almost all analyses used cross-sectional designs; as a result, we do not know whether both variables causally affect one another, if they should do, we do not know whether concerns reduce self-disclosure or whether self-disclosure reduces concerns. In light of this, this study analyzes the privacy paradox from a longitudinal perspective. We argue that, over the course of 6 months, privacy concerns reduce positive attitudes toward sharing, and that positive attitudes in turn increase self-disclosure.

The study is based on a representative sample of the German population and consists of N = 966 respondents. The first wave was collected in May 2014, the second in December 2014, and the third in May 2015. The hypotheses were analyzed using structural equation modeling; the data fit the hypothesized model comparatively well, χ^2(754) = 3645.24, p < .001, CFI = .92, TLI = .91, RMSEA = .06, SRMR = .05. The results showed that privacy concerns at T1 slightly decreased positive attitudes toward self-disclosure 6 months later (β = -.08, p = .018), which, in turn, increased self-reported self-disclosure another 6 months later (β = .20, p < .001). The 95% Monte-Carlo interval showed that the indirect effect of privacy concerns on self-disclosure was significant (b = -.02 [-.03; < -.01]). Attitudes and self-disclosure did not have a significant effect on privacy concerns (Figure 1).

Taken together, the results evidence that privacy concerns have a causal effect on self-disclosure by reducing the positive attitudes people hold toward online self-disclosure. In sum, the study produces further evidence against the privacy paradox and supports the notion that SNS behaviors are significantly determined by psychological antecedents.


Barnes, S. B. (2006). A privacy paradox: Social networking in the United States. First Monday, 11(9).

Baruh, L., Secinti, E., & Cemalcilar, Z. (2017). Online privacy concerns and privacy management: A meta-analytical review. Journal of Communication. Advance online publication.

Dienlin, T., & Trepte, S. (2015). Is the privacy paradox a relic of the past? An in-depth analysis of privacy attitudes and privacy behaviors. European Journal of Social Psychology, 45(3), 285–297.

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