Birds of a feather flocking together on Instagram: How racially similar followers and followings on Instagram are linked to young women's body image

Heather Gahler, Jiaqi Zeng, Kun Yan, Larissa Terán, Leah Dajches, Jennifer Stevens Aubrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In light of recent studies demonstrating the detrimental effects of social media use on young women's body image, we examined the racial composition of young women's Instagram followers, as well as the racial composition of the individuals in young women's followed Instagram accounts, in relation to their appearance ideals and body image. Based on social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), we tested two main propositions. First, women who have racially similar followers and followed accounts will be more likely to internalize body ideal preferences that are relevant to their in-group (i.e., thinness for Asian-American and White women; curviness for Black and Latina women). Second, following and being followed by people of one's racial identity in-group will have ameliorative effects on young women's body image (i.e., more body appreciation; less body dissatisfaction). Our sample included 533 U.S. women who identified as Asian-American (n = 97), Black (n = 101), Latina (n = 98), or White (n = 237). The results provided more support for the notion that racially similar followers and accounts followed are related to better body image outcomes rather than to the internalization of body ideals. Specifically, following a higher percentage of racially similar accounts was positively associated with body appreciation among Asian-American and White participants and negatively associated with body dissatisfaction among Asian-American participants. Likewise, being followed by a higher percentage of racially similar others was positively associated with body appreciation among Asian-American, Black, and White participants, and negatively associated with body dissatisfaction among Latina participants. The findings are discussed in light of social identity theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101626
JournalBody Image
Volume47
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Appearance ideals
  • Body image
  • Racial homophily
  • Racial identity
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychology(all)

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