Few things get you down like a nasty comment on social media.
But according to a new study, even compliments and positive messages on social networks like Instagram make us feel bad about the way we look.
Instagram posts littered with body-positive comments made women feel more self-conscious than posts with comments that praised other aspects, the study found.
Scientists say this effect is likely even stronger when we read positive comments on our own photos.
They argue complimenting someone’s appearance on social media may do more harm than good, and suggest leaving a comment about something else entirely.
‘Although people make appearance comments to be supportive and helpful, in fact they just put more of a focus on appearance and in the end fuel body dissatisfaction among viewers,’ study coauthor Professor Marika Tiggemann told PsyPost.
‘Try to comment on something else.’
In the study, from Flinders University in Australia, 128 female students viewed Instagram images of attractive women paired with a brief positive comment.
Some of the participants only read comments that praised the women’s appearence, such as ‘you look amazing’.
Others only saw comments that praised different aspects of the photo, such as ‘get beach’.
After viewing the photos, each participant was quizzed on their satisfaction with their appearance.
While body dissatisfaction rose for all of the women involved, it jumped significantly more in those who only saw positive comments about the person in the photo.
Professor Tiggemann suggested Instagram fans avoid leaving comments that only praise the poster’s appearance, though she admitted this may be difficult as compliments are part of the app’s ‘social script’.
She added that while the study looked at the effect comments on other people’s had on women, the impact on body dissatisfaction is likely magnified on our own posts.
‘I expect the effect would be stronger, but might expect a positive short-term effect and a negative longer-term effect,’ she said.
The study was published in the Journal Body Image.
It follows the revelation that a growing number of young women are now deficient in vital nutrients, as a result of trendy diets made popular by social media.
Research published in July showed women are more likely to cut out key food groups and develop depression if they use the app daily
It warned that women in their 20s and 30s now lack key minerals such as potassium, magnesium and copper as a result of the trend.
Experts said people who follow social media may be confused by diet trends, neurotic about food and unsure about what they should and shouldn’t be eating.