top of page

Study: Social Media Negatively Affects the Way Young Women View Themselves

A new study from York University confirms a common refrain: social media has negative self-confidence effects on women aged 18 to 27. The study found that women viewing photos of peers, who they think are more attractive than herself, suffer self-confidence issues.

When women actively view social media posts of women they think are more attractive then themselves, their self confidence is low.

When women actively view social media posts of women they think are more attractive then themselves, their self confidence is low.

The study focused on women who regularly view photos of other women, who they deem more attractive through likes and comments.

"The results showed that these young adult women felt more dissatisfied with their bodies," said Jennifer Mills, associate professor in the department of psychology,

"They felt worse about their own appearance after looking at social media pages of someone that they perceived to be more attractive than them. Even if they felt bad about themselves before they came into the study, on average, they still felt worse after completing the task."

One hundred and eighteen female undergrad students from many ethnic backgrounds at York participated in the study. They reported their age, ethnicity, first language, how long they have been in post-secondary education and their level of confidence in their physical appearance.

At the start of the experiment women were separated into two groups. The first group was instructed to log on to Facebook and Instagram for at least five minutes and find one peer they perceive to be more attractive than themselves. They were then told to leave a comment of their choice on the post. The second group was the control. They were told to find and comment on a photo of a family member who they think is less attractive than them. The study showed the appearance of a family member didn’t affect the women’s view of themselves.

"I think in a lot of cases, young women who post to social media are hoping to get positive reinforcement for what they're posting and the way in which women use social media is more appearance-based than it is for men."

The researchers say that appearance is most important to women in their teens and mid-twenties. This age group is also the most likely to regularly use social media.

Said Mills, "We really need to educate young people on how social media use could be making them feel about themselves and how this could even be linked to stringent dieting, eating disorders or excessive exercise."

The study was published in the journal Body Image.

This article first appeared on

No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
bottom of page