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“It’s better saying I look fat instead of saying you look fat”: A Qualitative Study of UK Adolescents’ Understanding of Appearance-Related Interactions on Social Media

Paddock, Danielle ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1825-8731 and Bell, Beth T. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6587-0336 (2021) “It’s better saying I look fat instead of saying you look fat”: A Qualitative Study of UK Adolescents’ Understanding of Appearance-Related Interactions on Social Media. Journal of Adolescent Research.

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Abstract

Appearance-related interactions with peers, both positive and negative, are commonplace on social media. Using qualitative methods, this study explores UK adolescents’ shared understandings and experiences of these interactions. Sixty-four adolescents (Age M = 12.56; SD = 0.97; Girls = 33) from a secondary school in Northern England participated in semi-structured focus groups. Using thematic analysis, three themes were developed that encapsulate their shared understandings of appearance-related interactions: (1) positive appearance commentary is the norm, especially if you are popular and attractive, (2) comments to others should be positive, but comments about the self should be modest and self-deprecating (3) negative appearance comments are problematic but not always intentionally harmful. Overall, our findings suggest that, to adolescents, the boundaries between positive and negative interactions are blurred, as content, intention, gender and social rules intersect with social media platform design. Further research is needed to better understand how social media site design alters adolescents’ appearance interactions, as well as the role of these interactions in the development and maintenance of peer relationships and body image concerns.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/07435584211034875
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
School/Department: School of Education, Language and Psychology
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/5423

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