Reel life: concurrent and prospective relationships between selfie behaviours, body image, and disordered eating
Selfies have been related to body dissatisfaction in young women. Less is known about the relationships between selfie behaviours and eating disorders, particularly in mixed-gender populations. Moreover, the temporal order, and factors underlying these relationships are not fully understood. Amongst Australian male and female adults and adolescents, this thesis examines the concurrent and prospective relationships between a range of selfie behaviours, body image, and eating disorders, as well as the mediating roles of self-objectification and weight/shape concerns, and the moderating effects of self-compassion and gender.
The introduction of this thesis presented in Chapter One provides an overview of social media with a focus on selfie behaviours, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating. Objectification (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997) and uses-and-gratifications (Katz et al., 1973) theories are described to understand relationships between selfie behaviours and body image. The transdiagnostic model of eating disorders (Fairburn et al., 2003) and relationships between selfie behaviours and disordered eating are also explored.
A cross-sectional study in Chapter Two examines the relationships between photo manipulation (digital re-touching of selfies), photo investment (effort in choosing a selfie to post online and monitoring responses to images), and body dissatisfaction amongst adults, as well as the moderating role of self-compassion. Photo manipulation and photo investment were positively related to body dissatisfaction for both men and women.
Next, a longitudinal study amongst adolescents in Chapter Three investigates the prospective and reciprocal relationships between photo manipulation, photo investment, and investment in others’ selfies (viewing, commenting, liking others’ selfies) at baseline and weight/shape concerns two years later, as well as the mediating role of self-objectification at one-year follow-up. Selfie behaviours were not prospectively related to weight/shape in either direction. Self-objectification fully mediated the relationships between baseline weight/shape concerns and photo manipulation and investment in others’ selfies two years later.
Another cross-sectional study in Chapter Four examines relationships between avoidance of posting selfies (deliberately avoiding posting one’s image online), photo manipulation, photo investment, investment in others’ selfies, and likelihood of meeting criteria for an eating disorder amongst adolescents. All selfie behaviours were related to greater likelihood of meeting criteria for an eating disorder compared to no disorder. Boys who avoided posting selfies were more likely than girls to meet criteria for clinical/subclinical anorexia nervosa.
Finally, a longitudinal study in Chapter Five investigates the relationships between avoidance of posting selfies, photo manipulation, photo investment, investment in others’ selfies at baseline and likelihood of meeting criteria for an eating disorder two years later, as well as the mediating role of weight/shape concerns at one year follow-up. Selfie behaviours were not related to eating disorder status after two years. Weight/shape concerns fully mediated the relationship between photo manipulation and eating disorder status.
An integrative summary of the findings discussed are presented in Chapter Six. An explanation is provided for how the results extend the current understanding of selfie behaviours as concurrent and prospective risk indicators and outcomes of body image concerns and disordered eating amongst young people. Theoretical and practical implications, limitations, and avenues for future research are discussed.