Research on the negative psycho-emotional implications of social comparisons on social network sites such as Instagram has rapidly accumulated in recent years. However, little research has considered the extent to which such comparisons can elicit positive motivational outcomes for adolescent users, specifically inspiration. Furthermore, little is known about whether it matters whom young people compare themselves to on Instagram (i.e., network composition) and how this may modulate the emotional outcomes of Instagram social comparisons. The present study thus sought to determine how adolescents' Instagram comparisons of ability associate with inspiration through the mechanism of benign and malicious envy. We further examined whether two key aspects of network composition—perceived similarity and the amount of strangers followed—moderated these relationships. Results from a paper survey among n = 266 British adolescents confirm the hypothesis that those adolescents who compare more strongly on Instagram also report more inspiration from Instagram use. While benign envy positively mediated this relationship, malicious envy worked in the opposite direction, indicating the need to distinguish these two types of envy in future research. In addition, while the amount of strangers followed did not significantly affect the relationships between social comparison, envy, and inspiration, higher perceived network homophily positively moderated the relationship between social comparison and inspiration by eliciting more benign and less malicious envy. Results overall suggest that social comparisons on Instagram may be more inspiring when adolescents compare themselves to similar others and avoid unachievable false role models in their online networks.
|Journal||Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking|
|Publication status||Published - 2019|