A new survey shows some surprising insights about social media, selfies, and how they relate to your self-esteem.

By Julia Malacoff
September 27, 2018
Photo: Andrea Comi / GettyImages.com

Thanks to the social media fitness community, snapping a selfie during a workout is a pretty normal thing to do these days. One gym is even investing in a "selfie room."

And it's known that social media can absolutely have a positive impact on body image and health habits (especially if you've joined an online support group). On the flip side, social media use has also been linked to depression and anxiety as well as unhealthy body image, making the ways your favorite apps affect your mental and physical health anything but clear-cut.

That's why a survey recently conducted by FitRated is so fascinating. They polled 1,000 people about their social media use in order to gain insight into how their habits might be affecting their body image, self-esteem, and health-related behaviors.

One of the most interesting findings of the survey was that while typical social media users and non-social media users had normal body image, avid social media users were way more likely to believe that their looks were extremely important, be dissatisfied with how they looked, and have low self-esteem. Yikes.


What is an avid user, you ask? Those are people who are on social media for three hours or more per day. That might sound like a lot, but if you've ever gone down a black hole on Instagram more than once on a lazy Sunday, you can probably see how that could add up fast.

Avid selfie-takers, defined as those who take three or more selfies a month (and TBH, who *doesn't* take that many selfies a month?!) were also likely to believe their physical appearance was extremely important. But interestingly, that belief doesn't necessarily translate into lower self-esteem. In fact, avid selfie-takers were the most likely to have high self-esteem and be satisfied with their own overall look. That's definitely a win! And since taking selfies can help boost confidence, these findings make a lot of sense. It stands to reason: If you like taking photos of yourself, you probably like how you look.

Lastly, the survey took a look at the things respondents wanted to change about their bodies based on their social media use. Everyone had the top two desired change areas in common: stomach and weight. But after that, responses varied. The people who spend the most time on social media each day really wanted to change their legs (thigh gap, anyone?) and teeth, while regular users were more concerned about their hair.


Of course, we don't know exactly why these differences exist, but one thing is clear: The time you spend on social media and taking photos of yourself does impact how you feel about your body and appearance, for better or for worse. The best thing you can do? Tune into how the time you spend scrolling makes you feel and the thoughts you have while browsing others' feeds, and you're likely to gain some insight into how your social media habits are working for (or against) you.