Instagram being a fairly new (2010) form of
social media has very few studies, or limited studies done. With regard to self
esteem however, there seems to be substantial work done, all pointing in
negative directions.

A study by Anna Hill and Lamaja Denman in
2012, titled ‘Adolescent Self Esteem and Instagram: An Examination of Posting
Behaviors’, explored how a specific social media site- here Instagram, may
affect adolescent girls and their self esteem. Social media, with the rise in
technology, has changed the very manner in which young people interact with it
and each other. Instagram as a platform is used often to share pictures that
the user takes to depict only certain, desirable aspects of their life, and is
often used to recreate their desired self image. Portrayal of self in a planned
way can be indicative of suffering self esteem, especially based on the “follow”
“like” and “comment” feedback features that the platform allows, and this can
cause unprecedented declines in terms of mental health and rise in mental
illness.

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The hypothesis of the study was that the
girls with the lowest self esteem would post the most provocative pictures. This
hypothesis is based on how people can choose to “follow” certain users, make
their accounts “public” or “private” and thereby choose the influences that may
regulate how young women view themselves and how they wish others to view them.
The researchers issued a self-esteem questionnaire to a group, and followed
closely the Instagram profiles of the group of adolescent girls (N=14), looking
to find correlations. Close examination was done on the accounts of type of
photographs found, frequency of sharing pictures, usage of “filters” to alter
the picture and correlated thus to the self-reported self –esteem scores. It
was so found that the participants with highest self esteem scores tended to
post most unflattering, humorous and “goofy” pictures. The average self-esteem
participants posted an increasing amount of filtered and provocative, revealing
pictures, whilst the ones showing lowest self esteem had open accounts most
often- alongside most provocative and filtered or edited pictures- proving the
study’s hypothesis. As social media becomes an almost invariable part of most
adolescents and early adults’ life in urban and progressive lifestyles, it has
an increasingly ill effect on the self esteem and further- self portrayal and
self confidence of adolescents as it creates its own flawed ideals of beauty and
standards of what is considered “attractive”. The study could have done with
including more factors than just number of provocative pictures to gauge
correlation with self esteem, and perhaps could extend itself to be non gender specific.

A study ‘THE EFFECT OF INSTAGRAM ON
SELF-ESTEEM AND LIFE SATISFACTION’ by Nicole Annette Dion, 2016 was conducted
as a quasi experiment that examined the effects of Instagram, on self-esteem
and life satisfaction.Specifically the study looked at the effects of following
celebrities on Instagram in relation  Festingers’ social comparison theory that explains
how individuals compare themselves to others to evaluate their own opinions and
abilities in order to reduce any uncertainty in these areas and to learn how to
define the self. Social comparison can be a way of self-enhancement by downward
social comparisons, by means of looking to another individual or group that
they consider to be worse off than them in order to feel better about
themselves, or have a negative impact on an individual’s self-report by means
of upward comparisons, when comparing themselves with others who are better off
or superior. Such negative social comparisons are detrimental to the
perceptions about the self.

Traditionally-aged college females (N = 51)
were assigned to either the control group where they were asked to use
Instagram as they normally would, or the experimental group where they were
asked to follow 15 specific celebrities for 4-6 weeks. Participants were given
a pretest and posttest which included a self-esteem (Rosenberg Self Esteem
Scale- Revised Positive Version, 2003) and a life satisfaction survey (Revised
Work and Nonwork Life Satisfaction Scales, 2013). There were no statistically
significant differences found between the experimental group and the control
group, nor between the pre-test and post-test scores. However, a subgroup of
participants that initially followed a minimal amount of celebrities before the
experiment showed a decline in their life satisfaction at post-test which
approached statistical significance, which resulted in the conclusion that
usage of Instagram can decrease self esteem and life satisfaction in college
aged females depending on who they follow. This study thus successfully found
the answers it sought in relation to self esteem and Instagram usage, but it
lack of a control group-natural settings and a less gendered approach would
yield more conclusive evidence.

           

 

A study survey ‘Friend Networking Sites and
Their Relationship to Adolescents’ Well-Being and Social Self-Esteem'(Valkenberg
et al, 2006) among 881 (ages 10-19 years) adolescents on a Dutch friend
networking site showed interesting results on feedback and self-esteem. It is
known that adolescents often engage in what has been referred to as “imaginative
audience behaviour” where they tend to overestimate the extent to which others
are watching and evaluating and as a result can be extremely preoccupied with
how they appear in eyes of others. Interpersonal feedback and public
evaluations are publicly available on all members of friend networking sites,
likely to affect the development of adolescents’ social self esteem, that is
their evaluation of their self worth or satisfaction. Conducted in Netherlands,
the study was based in networking site CU2 (“See You Too) used by 415,000
profiles- 45% boys and 55% girls. Upon accessing their profile, members of the
site received a pop-up screen with an invitation to participate in an online
survey that assured participation was voluntary, and that their responses would
be anonymous.

Using structural
equation modeling, measures
like use of site, frequency of reactions to profiles, the tone of reactions to profiles, relationships established online, and
social self esteem were analysed. It was found that the frequency with which adolescents used the site had an indirect effect on their social
self-esteem and well-being.  The use of the friend networking site
stimulated the number of relationships formed on the site, the frequency with
which adolescents received feedback on their profiles, and the tone- positive
or negative, of this feedback. Positive feedback on the profiles enhanced
adolescents’ social self-esteem
and well-being, whereas negative feedback decreased their self-esteem and well-being- reliant solely on the tone of
the feedback. For 78% adolescents, positive feedback was predominant, but for
the smaller 7% adolescents who received a majority of negative feedback on
their profiles, the use of the site resulted in aversive and deeply negative
effects on self esteem.

The study specified also the necessary spot
for all communication researchers and educators alike to look into the global phenomenon
of social networking sites as it has deeply psychological effects on its users.