Background: Many today view the world through the lens of social media. Identity management on social media platforms elicit numerous disadvantages regarding individuals and how they perceive themselves relative to the outside world. It can be difficult to oppose the idea that social media triggers the detriment of mental well-being, potentially altering the perception of self. This study aims to bridge the existing gap in literature between social media and self-perception among college students
Methods: This quantitative study employed an 11-item questionnaire. The study was broken down into three crucial components. The first component produced affect-related statements about social media with underlying implications regarding self-esteem, thought processes, emotions and social comparison. The second component proposed exposure to social media for 10 consecutive minutes, and the third component had subjects rate their agreement once more with the same affect-related statements.
Results: The 11 pre-test and post-test affect-related statements indicated negative ideals about self-perception of each subject that participated, thus signifying a negative correlation. After statistical hypothesis testing, it has been determined that the results of the data set are statistically significant suggesting an inverse relationship between the independent variable and dependent variable.
Conclusion: The researchers observed that social networking sites challenge traditional perceptions of self, self-presentation tactics and social behavior. Social media inhibits strong peer presence and it is vital to understand how this dynamic plays a role in society today. It is critical to study social media in the context of self-perception due to the sparsity of research studies conducted.
Keywords:Social Media; Social Networking; Perception; Individuals; Body-Image; Social Comparisons; Mental Well-Being
Social media is embedded in our social climate as we know it today, having a critical influence on our mindset. Social media has produced deep-seated changes in the dynamic by which people interact with one another. These changes have altered conventional aspects of individual behavior and self-perception. When considering the growth of social media, it is imperative to acknowledge how it influences the way individuals perceive themselves and aim to be perceived. The purpose of this research study is to understand the effects of social media and how it influences self-perception, thought processes, emotions and self-esteem. It is important to be aware of the impact of social media on self-perception. Social media users expose many aspects of their lives, browse their feeds consistently to stay updated, relevant and informed. This study aims to offer insight into how individuals browse and process the information on their social media feeds
in addition to how this information manifests and impacts self-perception.
Social media platforms are prevalent among teens and young adults. There is skepticism around social networking sites and how they impact individual mental health and self-perception. When examining the literature related to social networking sites, the keywords “social media,” “body image,” “perception” and “mental health” were used to search across national libraries. The literature explores the impact of social networking sites and the way they impact individual perceptions of themselves and the world around them. Meta-analysis articles reference individual research studies within the article to finalize their conclusions [1-3]. Each reviewed article provides similar sample sizes and subjects. The articles reviewed were published within the last ten years, when social media came to be more popular. Articles related to specific social networking sites and the associated adverse effects are sparse.
Most reviewed articles show data collections through similar
outlets. Three out of the 10 reviewed articles were meta-analyses,
referencing individual studies within the articles in which they
collected the data and finalized their findings regarding social
media and how it alters perception. Regarding inclusion and
exclusion, the 3 journal articles that are meta-analyses collected
their data from subjects that exhibit preferable traits that
matched the findings that they were looking for such as body
image concerns and social comparisons [1-3]. “How Many Likes
Did I Get?”, “Internet Use Associated Body-Surveillance Among
Female Adolescents,” “Strategic Image Management Online” and
“The Impact of Social Media on Social Comparison and Envy in
Teenagers” utilize the 10-item Rosenburg Self-Esteem Likert
scale to collect data [4-7]. Most of the reviewed studies recruited
subjects that are female students, also many of the studies have a
higher percentage of Caucasian subjects. Only one study reviewed
exclusively Thai subjects . Sample sizes for all reviewed studies
do not go below 100, generally ranging from 102 to 250.
Body image is a trend found throughout much of the reviewed
literature, extensively discussing the effects on females. Few
reviewed articles explicitly discussed body image concerns [2,7,8].
Perloff  sheds light on the topic of mental health by reviewing
studies to credit the notion that there is a correlation between
exposure to body-ideals on social media platforms and distortion
in the perception of body image. Vukovic  and colleagues also
discuss body image concerns for adolescents related to social
media, finding that higher frequency of exposure to, and usage
of, social media correlates with adolescents’ beliefs on ideas
physical appearance as well as attractiveness being associated
with appearance comparison and weight dissatisfaction. It is also
stated that the interactive aspect of social media plays a significant
role in these effects.
Furthermore, Clay  and colleagues observed that viewing
ultra-thin or averaged-sized models led to a decrease in both
body-image perception and self-esteem in adolescent females,
resulting in changes in self-esteem stemming from changes in body
satisfaction. In comparison, Burrow  and colleagues, Perloff ,
and Yang  and colleagues discussed the correlation between
individuals primarily harboring vulnerability characteristics and
validation seeking related to the feedback loop and higher selfesteem
that is triggered by “likes.” Prevalent among the reviewed
articles is how positive feedback or “likes” is also linked to higher
self-esteem. For example, female adolescents’ beauty ideals are
largely derived from observation of their peers’ Instagram pictures
and feedback to those pictures. Receiving a higher number of
“likes” was positively correlated with self-esteem for those who
had a lower sense of purpose in life.
Charoensukmongkol  and Brendenburg  concluded that
there is a positive correlation between depression and intense
social media exposure. Results from Baruth  also noted that
adolescents with lower self-esteem who did not perceive their
friendships to possess good quality or value on social media are
more prone to the risk of depressive symptoms. Intense exposure
to social media also appeared to correlate a with anxiety and
friend contingent self-esteem positively.
High exposure along with personal attachments to social
media also showed susceptibility to envy and social comparisons
in adolescents. Social comparisons of ability of social media are
prevalent in low identity clarity. Social media also serves as a
platform for adolescents to present themselves as popular, wellrounded
and attractive, one of the primary goals of youth’s social
media self-presentation. Another trend the articles convey is the
defining feature of social comparison, which is competition, as
most social media users strive to fulfill this need by putting forth
a positive image of themselves leading to performing more of
such comparisons to develop a brief image that impresses others.
Competitive drives and comparisons efficiently produce a positive
correlation concerning depression, envy, and shame [1,5,9,10].
Within the literatures reviewed, one major limitation is the lack
of ethnic diversity regarding the subjects recruited. It is difficult
to extract the external validity when the highest percentage of
subjects recruited are Caucasians, save for one journal article by
Charoensukmongkol . Additionally, gender is to be considered
when recruiting subjects and it is important to note that females
are recruited more than males. However, although females are
proven more susceptible to the adverse effects of social media,
specifically body image, it is hard not to question the effects it
has on males and would be beneficial to understand the external
validity of these effects .
Regarding females, another limitation is that many articles
exaggerated body image concerns, and it is important to consider
facial features and the effects of photoshop and photo manipulation
beyond the simple factor of body-image concerns alone. Moving
forward, Facebook is the leading social media site when reviewing
the studies conducted. Although the value of Facebook holds
weight, Instagram and Twitter appear to be the most used and
popular platforms among adolescents today; older adults also
appear to use Facebook more excessively than adolescents and
young adults. With that said, another gap is the lack of older
adults when thinking of subject recruitment and it would be useful
to measure these effects regarding the adult population as well.
Furthermore, consideration of the gaps and limitations of the
information gathered will benefit future research studies of how
social media impacts self-perception
Subjects of this study had taken the questionnaire during
the Spring 2019 semester. The overall design of this study was
quantitative and helped the researchers understand behaviors
regarding social media and self-perception. The quantitative methods employed within this study involved a 11-item
questionnaire. The study was broken down into three crucial
a) Affect-related statements about social media with
underlying implications regarding self-esteem, thought
processes, emotions and social comparison.
b) Exposure to social media for 10 consecutive minutes.
c) Subjects rated their agreement once more with the same
This research study is important because the primary goal was
to explore self-perception and the extent to which self-esteem,
thought processes, and social media alter emotions. There are
theoretical reasons to believe that social media has an impact, yet
this study exhibited credibility. Through this approach, the subjects
were able to inhibit a better understanding of their behaviors
and thought processes concerning social media. Additionally,
the approach allowed the researchers to widen the scope about
social media and the impact of self-perception. It is through the
approach that the researchers gained better acknowledgment
regarding social media and the effects on a quantitative scale.
Subjects who had participated in the questionnaire consisted
of 51 mentally healthy college students. The questionnaire had
taken place in a quiet, classroom setting. The questionnaire was
distrubted in person and physical form. There were no specific
preferred demographics needed for the study because it helped
generalize the findings. However, age and gender were noted
yet ignored to allow generality. The age of the subjects varied.
Purposive-convenience sampling was used because it was more
opportune means in selecting subjects for the study. As part of the
research study, subjects used social media frequently. However, the
subject sample were recruited from the College of Staten Island’s
Master of Social Work program and undergraduate students
because young adults appear to navigate social media frequently.
All subjects expressed agreement of participation.
The first part of the study consisted of 11 statements about
social media, and subjects rated their agreement from 1-5 with
one being “Strongly Disagree” to 5 being “Strongly Agree” on a
Likert Scale. Subjects then browsed Instagram, Snapchat, and
Facebook for 10 consecutive minutes. Once the subjects were
finished browsing, they once again reviewed the 11 statements
and rated their agreement from 1 (Strongly Agree) to 5 (Strongly
Disagree) on a Likert Scale. The statements were minimum to
lessen the participant’s burden. These 11 items were adapted
to measure the psychological effects of social media and to scale
the intensity of these effects. The questionnaire consisted of the
a) There are unattainable standards of beauty I feel
pressured to reach.
b) I cannot help but compare myself to my peers.
c) The number of likes on a photo is a source of validation.
d) Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat is a part of my daily
e) Being on Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat offers me a
sense of belonging
f) Photoshop helps me deal with the anxiety from the
judgment of others
g) The number of likes on a photo is a source of self-esteem.
h) I often compare my physical attributes to others.
i) I feel anxiety after posting a photo or status update.
j) Other people’s success is an indication of my own
k) Other people’s lives are more fulfilling than mine.
The researchers then collected data through the interview
process and observing the behaviors of participants while the
study was conducted. Before completing any data collection,
approval from the College of Staten Island Institutional Review
Board was received.
This quantitative study observed the data gathered from the
survey’s distributed to the subjects. Data from the quantitative
study was extracted from a data collection in the form of a
questionnaire. The data analysis allowed an outlook on the
external validity of the data collected. The purpose of the study
was to derive assertions about the larger population and from
which the sample is selected as well as observing a relationship in
the data collected. The quantitative design gathered data from the
subjects before and after browsing social media for 10 consecutive
minutes with the same affect-related questionnaire. Once the data
was reviewed, the quantitative analysis required the conversion
of the data collected from the questionnaire into numerical codes
using SPSS. Bivariate correlation was used to analyse pre-test and
post test results from the 11 affect-related statements before and
after the intervention of browsing social-media for 10 consecutive
This study was approved by the IRB. Subjects understood
that the purpose of the study was to measure the impact of
social media on self-perception regarding self-esteem, thought
processes, and emotions. The subjects were willing to participate
when asked to sign an informed consent. The researchers ensured
that all the subjects were adequately informed about the goal of
the research, provided in writing was information about what
their participation in the study entailed, what happened with the
information they shared, and what their rights were regarding the
study. Moreover, the subjects were provided with further detailed information when they completed the study. The subjects were
notified of the length of the study which was approximately less
than 30 minutes to complete from start to finish. Subjects were
also alerted of the setting in which the study was taking place. The
informed consent advised of the potential benefits which were the
contribution to benefiting the social climate and the field of social
work. However, it was noted that they did not directly benefit from
participation in the research study.
Regarding confidentiality, it was in the best of efforts to
maintain confidentiality and any information gathered as well
as collected during the research study that can identify a subject.
Confidentiality was protected by not asking participants to state
or write their identity as well as not associating it with any of the
concluded findings. The questionnaires were randomized before
and after the study to safeguard identity, and only the researchers
had access to the data collected. The subject’s participation of this
study was entirely voluntary, and if they decided not to participate,
there was no penalty. Participation in the study did not affect the
subject’s grades and academic standing with CUNY, or any other
colleges. Participants also were able to withdraw consent at any
Upon observing the data, each pre-test and post-test affectrelated
statements were analyzed using individual bivariate
correlation charts in SPSS. The pearson r-correlation was conducted
to assess the relationship between the independent variable
(social media) and dependent variable (self-perception). The first
affect-related statement, “There are unattainable standards of beauty I feel pressured to reach,” had a significant strong, negative
correlation, r = .838, p < .05 (Table 1). The second affect-related
statement, “I cannot help but compare myself to my peers,” was
a significant negative correlation, r = .786, p < .05 (Table 2). The
third affect-related statement, “The number of likes on a photo is a
source of validation,” had a significant strong, negative correlation,
r = .739, p < .05 (Table 3). The fourth affect-related statement was,
“Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat is a part of my daily routine,” had
a significant strong, negative correlation, r = .739, p < .05 (Table
4). The fifth affect-related statement was, “Being on Instagram/
Facebook/Snapchat offers me a sense of belonging,” had a
significant strong, negative correlation, r = .738, p < .05 (Table 5).
The sixth affect-related statement was, “Photoshop helps me deal
with the anxiety from the judgment of others,” had a significant
strong, negative correlation, r = .858, p < .05 (Table 6). The seventh
affect-related statement was, “The number of likes on a photo is
a source of self-esteem,” r = .677, p < .05. The eight affect-related
statement was, “I often compare my physical attributes to others,”
r = .790, p < .05 (Table 7). The ninth affect-related statement was, “I
feel anxiety after posting a photo or status update,” r = .707, p < .05
(Table 8). The tenth affect-related statement was, “Other people’s
success is an indication of my own failures,” r = .829, p < .05 (Table
9). The eleventh affect-related statement was, “Other people’s
lives are more fulfilling than mine,” r = .781, p < .05 (Table 10). The
null hypothesis was rejected while the directional hypothesis was
supported, as social media increases, self-perception decreases.
Each affect-related statement related to negative ideals about the
self-perception of each subject that participated, thus signifying
a negative correlation. After statistical hypothesis testing, it has
been determined that the results of the data set are statistically
significant suggesting an inverse relationship between the
independent variable and dependent variable.
The 11 pre-test and post-test affect-related statements
represented negative ideals towards self-perception. Bivariate
correlation was utilized to analyze the independent variable of
social media in order to determine if there is an impact among
the dependent variable of self-perception. It is crucial to note that
the statistical significance of these findings is agreeing to negative
statements on a 5-point Likert scale, with 5 being strongly agree,
thus a negative correlation and/or inverse relationship among the variables. The researcher wanted to discover how much of an
impact there is in self-perception before and after browsing social
media for 10 consecutive minutes. The reliability and validity
suggest the statistical significance is strong. Previous research has
supported these results and focused on similar findings.
future studies which can offer a deeper understanding
about the social media paradigm relating to perception of self.
Additionally, how individuals perceive others. A larger sample
size could yield greater results, offer more detail on how subjects
perceive themselves and the extent they will go to achieve
fabricated perfectionism on social media platforms. In addition to
this, the potential to find a differentiation among different genders
and age could contribute to the validity of findings and the impact
on mental health. There were a handful of limitations of the
current study. There were 51 subjects whom participated, with
consideration of the subtle sample size it may cause inability to
generalize the results. Furthermore, age and gender were ignored
when analyzing the data set and future studies can place emphasis
on these factors. Within practice on both a micro and macro level,
social media can pose threats to an individual’s mental health
and the dynamic of our social world if perceived improperly. It is
ostensive that these findings suggest social media creates a new
approach to socialization and self-confidence. Future research can
help implement new interventions to challenging mental health
issues derived from a digital standpoint.