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Individuals with social anxiety try to avoid or disengage when there is a perceived lack of control in a social situation. This study examined individual differences in social anxiety to better understand how levels of social anxiety are related to differences in self-preservation and image protection behaviors on Instagram, an image-based social media application. The purpose of this empirical study was to explore Instagram control behaviors by applying Schlenker and Leary’s (1982) Social Anxiety and Self-Presentation (SASP) conceptualization model. Instagram has features and settings that allow individuals to exert varying degrees of control over the content they share on their profile and posts. I explored two aspects of self-preservation and image management as predicted by the SASP model, affiliation and preferred impression, in a non-clinical sample of college students (N = 45). Results indicated that individuals who generally experienced higher levels of social anxiety were more likely to engage in greater control behaviors on Instagram than individuals with low levels of social anxiety. While there was no relationship between control behaviors and affect, socially anxious individuals were more likely to report increases in self-esteem from Instagram even though they reported spending less time on Instagram than less socially anxious individuals. These findings suggest that there are key differences in people’s Instagram behaviors as a function of social anxiety and feared negative evaluations. The present findings can inform future work that further elucidates relations between social anxiety, self-presentation, and various ways people engage with social media platforms.
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Polletta, Isabel, "Regulating Self-Image on Social Media: Associations Between Social Anxiety and Instagram Control Behaviors" (2020). Senior Projects Spring 2020. 245.
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