“I want to look like her”: A cross-cultural analysis of White and Eastern Asian-Canadian women’s perceptions of beauty through Instagram

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Gwilliam, Maya
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Researchers and the broader public alike have long been intrigued about the connection between body image concerns among young women and the increasing proliferation of certain social media platforms. Instagram, in particular, has become a common target of attention for those expecting to see a connection between participation on the platform and negative self-esteem (Fardouly et al., 2017). There is often a racial component to these assumptions, given that Eastern Asian women often face negative body self-esteem issues when confronted with mainstream beauty standards (Cheng, 2014; Smart et al., 2011). In an effort to ascertain the validity of these assumptions, this research has committed to a thorough investigation of self-perceptions among young women as it relates to their Instagram usage by exploring the research question: Is there a relationship between White and Eastern Asian-Canadian women’s self-esteem, ethnic and racial identity, and their Instagram use? This study made use of quantitative data collected from participants from 16 universities across Canada; 82 participants were surveyed to gauge their browsing habits on Instagram, as well as their self-image and internalization of Western beauty standards. An analysis of this data yielded a result which contradicted the popular assumption—among the White and Eastern Asian-Canadian women (ages 19-30) surveyed, there is no evidence of a relationship between Instagram usage and global self-esteem, body self-esteem, or racial identity. While this does not preclude the possibility that social media may be harmful to young women in other ways, there is little evidence from the present study to suggest that Instagram is responsible for deteriorating its users’ self-esteem.
Self esteem, women, social media, body image, racial identity