A new study by Michael Stefanone (U. of Buffalo) and two colleagues has been published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking (subscription required).
The study is summarized in this press release from the U. of Buffalo:
Among other things, the team looked at the amount of time subjects spent managing profiles, the number of photos they shared, the size of their online networks and how promiscuous they were in terms of “friending” behavior. [Subjects' average age was in the early to mid-20's and almost evenly divided between men and women.]
The contingencies, measured by the widely used CSW Scale (contingences of self worth) developed by Crocker and Wolfe, are important internal and external sources of self-esteem, hypothesized in previous research and theory to affect an individual’s sense of self worth.
Stefanone’s study found that contingencies of self-worth explain much of the social behavior enacted online.
“Those whose self esteem is based on public-based contingencies (defined here as others’ approval, physical appearance and outdoing others in competition) were more involved in online photo sharing, and those whose self-worth is most contingent on appearance have a higher intensity of online photo sharing,” Stefanone says.
Stefanone notes that the women in this study who base their self worth on appearance were also are the most prolific photo sharers
“Participants whose self worth is based on private-based contingencies (defined in this study as academic competence, family love and support, and being a virtuous or moral person),” says Stefanone, “spend less time online.” For these people, social media are less about attention seeking behavior.