What is it about?

People who are socially anxious tend to view themselves as inferior to others, or lower in social rank. In this study, we found that these perceptions of inferiority arise--and can be strengthened--when viewing Instagram "influencer" profiles, and that this may lead to poorer mood and self-esteem. As our sample consisted of undergraduate students, social anxiety was measured as a continuous variable, with those higher in social anxiety experiencing these effects.

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Why is it important?

Research has shown that passive content consumption on social networking sites (SNS) is relatively more detrimental to our emotional well-being than interactive use (e.g., sending messages). This study is one of the first to examine the emotional outcomes of a common form of passive content consumption (i.e., browsing Instagram profiles), particularly for socially anxious individuals, in real time. The findings may have important implications for this population, as both feelings of inferiority and worsened mood can increase behaviours that maintain social anxiety (e.g., avoidance of social interactions).


This study stems from my program of Master's research at the University of British Columbia. Conducting this research well required balancing standardization of stimuli and resemblance to real-world SNS use. A great deal of time, care, and critical thought was devoted to striking this balance and generally striving for high-quality research. Our research team is proud of the final product, and we hope that the article proves interesting and useful to you.

Carly A. Parsons
University of British Columbia

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Influencing emotion: Social anxiety and comparisons on Instagram., Emotion, October 2021, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/emo0001044.
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