Computational Journalism Analysis on Young Adults' Body Images and Attitudes Toward Plastic Surgery

Computational Journalism Analysis on Young Adults' Body Images and Attitudes Toward Plastic Surgery

Chutisant Kerdvibulvech, Pattaragun Wanishwattana
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/IJeC.2021100107
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Computational journalism, especially social media analysis, is a very popular field in computational science. This study was conducted to explore and analyze the impact of the intensity of the exposure to social media on young Thai adults' body images and attitudes toward plastic surgery. The purposive sampling method was used for choosing 250 young Thai men and women aged 21 to 40 who used Facebook and/or Instagram on a regular basis. Online survey questionnaires were posted on Facebook for one month to achieve the results. It was found that young Thai adults frequently and heavily used both social media. Having appearance pressure from and repeated social comparison with idealistic media images, a considerable number of participants displayed more negative self-perceptions and engaged in appearance-changing strategies through increased appearance investment. The results showed that the more these young adults were exposed to social media, the more they were likely to develop a negative body image of themselves, which later caused their attitude toward plastic surgery to be positive.
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1. Research Background

Nowadays, there are many people using social media worldwide, and Thailand is no exception. The global rate of mobile social media penetration is 39% based on active accounts on top social media sites. Thailand ranked in the top 10 for mobile social network penetration and top 4 for average period that individuals stay on social media platforms. The country was eighth on the global ranking for the number of Facebook users (2% of the total global figures), with Bangkok as the city containing the highest number of active Facebook accounts—22 million people. Additionally, the penetration of Instagram in Bangkok is 19% while the global average is 11%, as presented by Lee Sa-nguansuk (2018). This indicates that Thailand is a good country in which to examine the impact of social media on its users.

Evidence showed that Thai people intensely used social network sites. Seventy-four percent of the total Thai population or 51 million people out of 69 million Thai people are currently active social media users, with 11% growth in the number of the users since January 2017. In addition, according to survey-based data from Hootsuite and We Are Social, Thai people spend 3 hours and 10 minutes on average daily on social media using any device and up to 90% of 57 million total Internet users access the Internet every day. Most Thai social media users are not minor because Facebook requires everyone to be at least 13 years of age before creating an account, and many people own up to three accounts. Regarding the fact that people age 25 to 40 years old are the majority group virtually living and socializing in Facebook in Marketingoops, it shows that young adults, specifically, voluntarily spend many hours using social media when they are online, as reported by Phornphatcharaphong (2011).

Plastic surgery is a current trend in Thai society, especially among teens. Demand for plastic surgery procedures across the continents continues to skyrocket. There was an overall increase of 8% in surgical cosmetic procedures within the past twelve months. From the ranking of the World’s Top Countries for Cosmetic Procedures, Thailand ranked 21st with a total of 112,821 procedures, accounting for 0.5% of the worldwide cosmetic surgeries. The Thaitribune reported that young adults are more likely to feel the urge to have plastic surgery these days as they see plastic surgery advertisements on social media and images depicting status related to plastic surgery posted on those platforms (2014).

Numerous studies suggest the potential and actual negative effects of media images on one’s self and social perception, as explored by Gerbner (1990). In line with a study that examined the relationships among social media use, body image, self-esteem and psychological well-being in two different cultures by Hye Ryeon Lee, social media use for information searching about body image was seen to be negatively related to body satisfaction in the United States and Korea, while body satisfaction had direct and indirect positive effects on psychological well-being (2014). Mass media have been criticized for promoting standards of beauty that are unrealistic, thus causing body satisfaction, as reported by Blowers et al. (2003). Given that social media users usually repost stories from the traditional media, those that actively use social media may be exposed to similar content commonly found in the mass media and this will yield the same effect.

Additionally, according to a study of Nainan (2017), a survey on 555 college students in Singapore showed that exposure to media celebrities directly and indirectly influenced young people’s attitudes toward plastic procedures. Two factors that mediate the influence are identification and parasocial relationships, a relationship where one person extends effort and time in the other party that is totally unaware of the other’s existence. This type of relationship is most common with media celebrities. This research follows the notion of the trend that an increasing number of young people worldwide are seeking cosmetic surgeries, which have many risks, as elucidated by Vargel and Ulusahin (2001). This desire to engage in plastic surgery is due in part to the negative self-perception brought about by high involvement with media images and the models found there, with exposure to media as an antecedent.

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