Suffering by comparison: Twitter users' reactions to the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show

Body Image. 2013 Sep;10(4):648-52. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.05.001. Epub 2013 Jun 14.


Social comparison theory suggests that evaluating the self in comparison with others (e.g., peers, celebrities, models) can influence body image. Experimental studies that have tested effects of viewing idealized images in the media often show that women feel worse about themselves after seeing images that illustrate the beauty ideal. Twitter presents a naturally occurring opportunity to study viewers' reactions. An analysis was conducted of 977 tweets sent immediately before and during the 2011 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show that reference the show. Although the majority were idiosyncratic remarks, many tweets contain evidence of upward social comparisons to the fashion models. There were tweets about body image, eating disorders, weight, desires for food or alcohol, and thoughts about self-harm. The results support social comparison theory, and suggest that vulnerable viewers could experience negative affect, or even engage in harmful behaviors, during or after viewing the show or others like it.

Keywords: Body image; Eating disorders; Media; Social comparison theory; Tweets; Twitter; Women.

MeSH terms

  • Beauty
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Mass Media
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Perception*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires