From self(ie)-objectification to self- empowerment: The meaning of selfies on social media in eating disorder recovery

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Computers in Human Behavior


Selfies, or self-portraits taken on mobile devices, focus the viewer's attention on the subject's face and body, potentially objectifying the subject. Indeed, previous research finds that frequent taking and sharing of selfies on social networking sites correlates with high levels of self-objectification and disordered eating. However, evidence also suggests that the sharing of selfies has the potential to be positive and empowering for users. One population that may experience the dual correlates of selfies is women in eating disorder recovery, who are undergoing social-cognitive shifts in thinking that could transform the function their selfies serve. This qualitative study examines the role of selfies in the recovery process of 15 women. Guided by objectification theory, we analyze of the roles of selfies posted on social media during the recovery process using a photo-elicitation method and semi-structured interviews. A thematic analysis of the interviews and a content analysis of the photographs revealed both helpful and harmful roles of selfies in recovery, with the harmful images containing more objectifying content and the helpful images containing more humanizing content. The findings highlight the importance of monitoring and selectively supporting selfie use in clinical settings and populations to encourage empowering rather than detrimental effects.


Psychological Science

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