Thomson, Jennifer A. and Wigley, Stephen M. (2011) Understanding Self Advertising on Social Networking Cites: An Application of Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory. In: 18th Eirass Conference on Retailing and Consumer Services, July 17-19th 2011, San Diego, USA.

The emergence and increasing popularity of social networking sites introduces a new vehicle for individual self presentation. This research examines the role of social networking as a self advertising tool and mechanism for enhancing self esteem through social comparison. Social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954) asserts that individuals aspire to an ideal self which is attained through a process of comparison with others. Researchers are often critical of unattainable ideals of beauty portrayed in the media which provide a source of social comparison for individuals affecting levels of self esteem. Traditionally media images and peer group provided the main comparative platform for this process to occur with self esteem often protected due to the ‘unattainable’ nature of celebrity beauty. Social networking sites are a source of social comparison and the environment is recognized as a potentially narcissistic one which positively encourages self advertising. This research examines the way women use social networking as a means of self evaluation, self improvement and self enhancement. The findings show that individuals struggle to protect their self esteem in the social networking environment. Furthermore, a lack of control over protecting the self concept is present due to the image sharing nature of the media platform.


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