A recent study in the journal Body Image discovered that young women who watched TikTok videos promoting self-compassion and body positivity were less likely to feel anxious or ashamed about their appearance, while those who watched TikTok “beauty” videos showed the opposite pattern. These findings illustrate positive and negative consequences of different types of social media content.
Social media platforms like TikTok have become popular sources of beauty and appearance-related content. Research has found that this content may contribute to appearance shame and anxiety among young women.
The study’s authors, Veya Seekis and Richelle Kennedy, conducted their research to understand the impact of image-focused social media platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok, on young women’s body image and mood. They wanted to investigate whether exposure to beauty-related content on TikTok would affect women’s facial appearance concerns, self-compassion, mood, and comparison processes. The researchers also aimed to explore the potential protective effect of positive content, such as self-compassion, on young women’s body image.
To conduct the study, the researchers recruited 115 undergraduate women aged 17-25 years from a large public university in Australia. The participants were randomly assigned to watch one of three sets of TikTok videos, each containing a 7-minute compilation of videos. The videos were sourced from publicly available TikTok accounts and uploaded to YouTube for the experiment. The three sets of videos focused on beauty, self-compassion, and travel.
The beauty compilation videos included make-up tutorials, skincare routines, and “before and after” content related to cosmetic procedures. The self-compassion videos featured young women presenting strategies and personal stories to promote self-care during stressful times. The travel videos contained neutral content showcasing various landscapes and holiday destinations.
Before and after watching the videos, the participants completed several measures to assess their state appearance shame, appearance anxiety, self-compassion, mood, and comparison processes. These measures included scales and questionnaires specifically designed to capture the participants’ responses related to these variables. The researchers also collected demographic information from the participants, including age, ethnicity, and social media use.
The findings showed that after watching beauty TikTok videos, women felt more shame and anxiety about their appearance, had a negative mood, and had lower self-compassion compared to women who watched travel videos or self-compassion videos. Women in the beauty group also reported more comparisons of their appearance to others who were considered more attractive.
Women who watched self-compassion videos, on the other hand, had higher levels of self-compassion compared to those who watched beauty videos or travel videos. The self-compassion group also reported significantly lower levels of appearance shame and anxiety
These results suggest that exposure to beauty-focused TikTok videos, where attractive women promote beauty standards, can make women feel more self-conscious and worried about not meeting societal beauty expectations. On the other hand, videos promoting self-compassion and travel, which don’t focus on appearance as much, can have positive effects on women’s self-compassion and mood.
The research team discussed some limitations to the study, first was the short duration of the video exposure, as the study only measured the short-term effects of exposure to a 7-minute compilation of TikTok videos. Therefore, it is impossible to know whether the effects were maintained for longer periods.
Future research could investigate different duration times, more regular exposure, and longer-term follow-up measures. Second, the researchers used self-report measures, which are subject to social desirability bias and may not accurately reflect participants’ true experiences.
Finally, the study had a relatively small sample size and was limited to female participants aged 18-25 who reported using TikTok at least once a week. Therefore, the generalizability of the findings to other populations or social media platforms is limited. Future research could include more extensive and more diverse samples to increase the external validity of the findings.
The research team argues that their study provides evidence that exposure to self-compassion videos can promote positive body image and mental health among young women. In contrast, exposure to beauty videos can have the opposite effect. They suggested that social media platforms should consider promoting self-compassion content.
The study, “The impact of #beauty and #self-compassion TikTok videos on young women’s appearance shame and anxiety, self-compassion, mood, and comparison processes,” was authored by Veya Seekis and Richelle Kennedy.