Adolescents who use social network sites more frequently become more invested in looking physically attractive, which in turn predicts a greater desire to undergo cosmetic surgery. These are the conclusions of research collaboration between the Netherlands Youth Institute, Rutgers WPF, and CcaM, recently published in the journal Sex Roles.
The effects were just as strong among boys as among girls. However, girls did report more frequent social network site use, were more invested in their appearance, and had a greater desire to undergo cosmetic surgery.
When adolescents are more invested in their appearance they spend more time, effort, money, and attention to look physically attractive, which can come at the cost of friendships, school, and hobbies. Furthermore, an increased focus on the own appearance can lead to unhealthy dieting behavior, taking drugs to lose fat or gain muscle, becoming dependent on exercise, and, as the study shows, wanting to undergo expensive and risky cosmetic procedures. In addition, being overly invested in appearance can lead to depression and eating disorders.
More than 600 Dutch teenagers completed questionnaires at two time points. These adolescents, aged between 11 and 18 indicated, among other things, how often they used social network sites, how invested they were in their own appearance, and how much they desired to undergo cosmetic surgery.
The research is a collaboration between CcaM researchers Dian de Vries and Jochen Peter and Peter Nikken (Netherlands Youth Institute) and Hanneke de Graaf (Rutgers WPF, expert center on sexuality).
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