I’ll See Your Beautified Photo and Raise You One: An Experimental Investigation of the Effect of Edited Social Media Photo Exposure.

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Psychology of Popular Media






Social networking sites (SNSs) provide users with the opportunity to view photos and posts shared by celebrities and friends as well as share their own images. These unique aspects of SNSs may increase the risk of negative psychological effects of social comparisons. Upward social comparisons on SNSs are particularly likely, given the use of photo editing to create “beautified” images before posting. Although relatively new as an area of experimental investigation, there is indication that exposure to edited SNS photos harms women's body image. The findings from experimental studies on the effect of editing photos of one's self have been more inconclusive. This experimental study of 95 undergraduate women examined both the effect of exposure to edited photos of women embedded within an SNS mock-up and the subsequent effect on their photo taking and editing. The effect of photo editing on perceived physical attractiveness and mood was also assessed. Although type of SNS exposure did not affect perceived physical attractiveness, mood, or number of photos taken, participants who viewed an SNS page with edited photos were significantly more likely to edit their photos after being asked to take a selfie than participants who viewed an SNS page with unedited photos of the same women and a control group. Across conditions, photo editing was associated with adverse changes in perceived attractiveness and mood. It is recommended that future research continues to examine experimental manipulations of SNS exposure and SNS activity that more closely reflect the interactive ways that people engage with SNSs.


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