An exploration of social comparison on Instagram
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Social comparison is a common side effect of Instagram use and the literature points to comparisons as the source of considerable negative effect for Instagram users. However contradictory findings suggested that social comparison can elicit feelings of inspiration and can be a positive thing. This mixed methods study sought to explore the factors which contribute to social comparison on Instagram and identify the barriers against negative affect. The literature revealed three distinct vulnerabilities which can contribute to negative interpretation of social comparison information - passive use, Social Comparison Orientation (SCO) and self-esteem. A mixed methods approach was employed to explore the topic in depth. 10 participants took part in the qualitative focus groups to explore the factors that influence social comparison. 128 participants responded to an online survey to analyse the effects of passive use, Social Comparison Orientation and self esteem on social comparison. The results found that personality and self-consciousness predict negative interpretations of social comparison information on Instagram. Feed curation and self-awareness were the primary barriers to social comparison. The quantitative data revealed a moderate correlation between passive use, self esteem and SCO on social comparison. These results point to a need for more granular Instagram features to address personalities who are more vulnerable to negative outcomes of social comparison on the app.
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