April 4, 2020

Selfies and Mental Health (WVTF)

Liss, Erchull Study on Selfies and Self-Objectification Featured on WVTF

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss

Professors of Psychological Science Miriam Liss and Mindy Erchull’s recent study into selfies and self-objectification among young women was recently featured on WVTF 88.3 Radio IQ.

YouTube is loaded with videos advising young women on how to take a good selfie.

“You just have to find your good side. Like this is my good side, but this side is a no!” says one.

Professor of Psychological Science Mindy Erchull

Professor of Psychological Science Mindy Erchull

Which is why psychology professor Miriam Liss chose to take a closer look. She and her colleague Mindy Erchull studied 165 female students at their school – the University of Mary Washington. They found some girls took as many as 30 selfies before posting one.

“They’re thinking ‘How does my body look? Is my tummy looking big, are my arms flabby, does my nose look too big?’” she explains. “We’re often putting ourselves in a state of self-objectification.”

And that could lead to serious psychological problems: eating disorders, depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, a loss of a sense of flow, which is the ability to be in the moment and enjoy what you’re doing. Read more.

Why Is Social Media So Addictive? (Gizmodo)

Liss Discusses Social Media Addiction in Gizmodo Article

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss was recently interviewed by a reporter for Gizmodo in an article entitled, “Why is Social Media So Addictive?”

Social media is so addictive because it plays on one of the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be human—our need for social connection with others. We post and wait for other people to like or comment on our posts. We like and comment on other people’s posts as an act of social reciprocity, and it feels as though we are connecting to others.

The rewards are intermittent and unpredictable—we never know when we log on whether we have gotten more likes, comments, or followers. It is well known that intermittent and unpredictable rewards are the most addictive—think about slot machines. The anticipation while the app loads heightens the excitement and addictive nature. Features like streaks in Snapchat play on our desire not to let other people down (and break a streak) as well as the idea that the more time and investment we have put into something (known as sunk costs) the more investment we have in keeping it going.

Interestingly, our desire for social rewards can make us act in ways that undermine the value of those rewards. We often present only the partial truth about ourselves and manipulate our stories or photos in order to make ourselves look better to increase our likes and positive comments. When we do that, however, the likes and positive feedback can seem hollow and make us feel bad. I recently published a study with my colleague and students that linked photo manipulation on Instagram to feelings of depression through a sense that one was being disingenuous about what was posted. 

Read more.

Liss, Erchull Study Highlighted in Psychology Journal

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss

Professor of Psychological Science Mindy Erchull

Professor of Psychological Science Mindy Erchull

Psychological Science Professors Miriam Liss and Mindy Erchull’s research on selfie behaviors, self-objectification and depressive behaviors in women was recently published in the psychology journal, Sex Roles. Women are given the message that they are valued for their physical attractiveness above other qualities, and the study examines how self-objectification interplays with online behaviors.

“I have been collaborating with Mindy Erchull on issues related to objectification theory for several years. I had also begun to be interested in the effects of social media on people’s experiences and had recently taught a senior seminar on the topic,” said Liss, the study’s lead author.

“[We] became interested in how objectification relates to experiences with social media — particularly Instagram, which is a platform that is based on posting visual images. Other studies on the topic had largely looked at how feelings of self-objectification can be a consequence of social media. We wanted to look at how self-objectification can change how one behaves when taking and posting selfies.” Read more.

Instagram selfie photo manipulation linked to depressive symptoms in women (PsyPost.org)

Is Santa real? Here’s advice on how to handle a difficult question when kids ask (Naples Daily News; Wisconsin State Farmer)

Liss Speaks to USA Today Affiliates About Talking to Kids About Santa

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss shared her expertise in an article for two USA Today affiliates, Naples Daily News and Wisconsin State Farmer, on how to talk to children who ask questions about Santa Claus. She said parents often realize children are ready when they ask such questions as:

“How can Santa get into the house without a chimney? How does he travel all over the world in only one night?

She said the best way to handle these questions is to answer them with more questions to gauge the child’s thinking:

What do you think? Do you think it’s possible?

‘Kids who are ready will show that they’re ready,’ Liss said. If they’re not ready for the truth, Liss continued, then they’ll come up with their own explanation to keep the magic alive.” Read more. 

Liss Interviewed for Outside Magazine on Women Anglers’ Portrayal on Instagram

Professor of Psychology Miriam Liss

Professor of Psychology Miriam Liss was interviewed for an article in Outside magazine titled “How Instagram Became Divisive for Female Fly-Fishers.” The article explains how some female fly-fishers are frustrated with companies hiring inexperienced women anglers as influencers, while, at the same time, the influencers are trying to defend themselves and their abilities to their peers. Liss says, “It’s hard for women to negotiate hypermasculine environments. You become a token. All your activities are highly scrutinized, and if you mess up, it’s seen as if all women are incapable of fly-fishing.” Read more. 

How Instagram Became Divisive for Female Fly-Fishers (Outside)