Social comparison 2.0: examining the effects of online profiles on social-networking sites

Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2011 May;14(5):309-14. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2010.0120. Epub 2010 Nov 30.


Through their features--such as profile photographs or the personal vita--online profiles on social-networking sites offer a perfect basis for social comparison processes. By looking at the profile photograph, the user gains an impression of a person's physical attractiveness, and the user's vita shows which career path the person is pursuing. Against the background of Festinger's Social Comparison Theory, the focus of this research is on the effects of online profiles on their recipients. Therefore, qualitative interviews (N = 12) and two online experiments were conducted in which virtual online profiles of either physically attractive or unattractive persons (N = 93) and profiles of users with either high or low occupational attainment (N = 103) were presented to the participants. Although qualitative interviews did not initially give reason to expect online profiles to constitute a basis for comparison processes, results of the experiments proved otherwise. The first study indicates that recipients have a more negative body image after looking at beautiful users than persons who were shown the less attractive profile pictures. Male participants of the second study, who were confronted with profiles of successful males, showed a higher perceived discrepancy between their current career status and an ideal vita than male participants who looked at profiles of less successful persons.

MeSH terms

  • Beauty*
  • Body Image*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Perception*
  • Social Support*
  • Young Adult