Females use Facebook as a platform to compete for attention

Females use Facebook as a platform to compete for attention

Summary: A new study suggests that women who share lots of photos on Facebook are following an old stereotype, namely that females base their self worth on their appearance.


Females who base their self worth on their appearance tend to share more photos online and maintain larger groups of contacts on social networks. In general, women identify more strongly with their image and appearance, and use Facebook as a platform to compete for attention.

The new findings come from University at Buffalo researcher Michael A. Stefanone, PhD, plus colleagues Derek Lackaff, PhD, University of Texas, Austin, and Devan Rosen, PhD, University of Hawaii, Manoa. They published a study titled titled "Contingencies of Self-Worth and Social-Networking-Site Behavior" in the current issue of the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

In the study, 311 participants with an average age of 23.3 years, 49.8 percent of whom were female, completed a questionnaire measuring their contingencies of self worth. The subjects were also queried as to their typical behaviors on Facebook.

The study's purpose was to investigate variables that explain specific online behavior on social networks. The contingencies, measured by the widely used Contingencies of Self Worth Scale developed by Crocker and Wolfe, are important internal and external sources of self-esteem. Previous research and theory has hypothesized that they affect an individual's sense of self worth. Stefanone's study found that contingencies of self worth can also explain much of the social behavior enacted online.

Stefanone says it's a little disappointing that in the year 2011 so many young women continue to assert their self worth via their physical appearance, instead of working to discourage the stereotype. In this case, they are doing so by posting photos of themselves on Facebook as a form of advertisement, at least according to this study. Is this something that society can work to change, or is it simply inevitable?

"The results suggest persistent differences in the behavior of men and women that result from a cultural focus on female image and appearance," Stefanone said in a statement. "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. 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) spend less time online."

Topics: Collaboration, CXO, IT Employment, Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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  • Women like attention ...

    ... and social stimulation. The prettier they are, the more of this they get. Also using social networks and publishing lots of pictures, further this end.
    P. Douglas
    • How do I get a grant to explore

      @P. Douglas
      obvious and already known facts
      Will Farrell
      • I know a great research topic

        @Will Farrell,

        Does alchohol make it easier to persuade women to do things?
        P. Douglas
  • RE: Females use Facebook as a platform to compete for attention

    When you post 3000+ pictures on your FB profile (mostly females from what I saw) you not only have an appearance obsession, you probably can't live without FB. It's like social crack - the more you use it the more you are addicted to it and want to compete with other FB users. Why do you think they have all those pointless games on FB?
    • RE: Females use Facebook as a platform to compete for attention

      I think they are not realizing if one is on an online social network more they are moving away from their real and physical social network
      Ram U
  • Only the first

    Don't worry, this is only the first in our series of research grants entitled, "Females use X as a platform to compete for attention."

    Get your grant application in while there's still time. You too can be a Famous Scientist.
    Robert Hahn
  • RE: Females use Facebook as a platform to compete for attention

    So basically 3 men come up with the hypothesis that there's a direct correlation between the number of photos someone posts to FB and how dependent their self worth is on outward appearances. So of course the conclusion would be that since women are posting more pictures, and posting more pictures makes you shallow, therefore women are shallow. Uhm, FAIL! Also, copying the loaded language that you attribute to the study (insert eye roll here) when describing how women post photos to FB as a "form of advertisement?" You should be ashamed of yourself. You write better stuff than this Emil. Today is International Women's Day for cripes sake!
    LuLu WL
    • RE: Females use Facebook as a platform to compete for attention

      @LuLu WL Yet ironically most women in the U.S. don't even know about International Women's Day.
    • "today is Int'l Women's Day for cripes sake!"

      @LuLu WL

      Um...who had the brainfart of scheduling Int'l Women's Day on Fat Tuesday? ;)

      jus' sayin...they shoulda thought that one through.
      • Mardi Gras

        Does this make my day look fat?
        Robert Hahn
    • RE: Females use Facebook as a platform to compete for attention

      @LuLu WL There are tons of studies,books articles,blogs etc about men, the vast majority seem to be written by women. Either the study was done by rigorous scientific standards or not, the gender of those doing studies is irrelevant
  • What else is new?

    Women are caty and vain.
  • Well, DUHHH...

    You think...??????