BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In a new study published in the journal
Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, University at
Buffalo researcher Michael A. Stefanone, PhD, and colleagues found
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.
He says the results suggest that females identify more strongly
with their image and appearance, and use Facebook as a platform to
compete for attention.
Stefanone describes the study results in a video interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1GQHoLyS5Q&feature=relmfu.
"The results suggest persistent differences in the behavior of
men and women that result from a cultural focus on female image and
appearance," he says.
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. It appeared in the journal's current issue.
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 widely used CSW Scale
(contingences of self worth) developed by Crocker and Wolfe, are
important internal and external sources of self-esteem,
hypothesized in previous research and theory to affect an
individual's sense of self worth.
Stefanone's study found 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," Stefanone says.
Stefanone notes that the women in this study who base their self
worth on appearance were also are the most prolific photo
"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
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.'"
Stefanone's research emphasis is on group-level,
computer-mediated communication (CMC), distributed groups and
Internet-based communication tools like social networking sites. He
also explores novel uses of CMC technologies like blogs and social
network sites, and the effects these tools have on interpersonal
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.