“Hey, Look at My Body!”: An Exploratory Study of Body Display on Facebook among Hong Kong Young Adults

“Hey, Look at My Body!”: An Exploratory Study of Body Display on Facebook among Hong Kong Young Adults

Lik Sam Chan (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA) and Hing Weng Eric Tsang (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/ijicst.2014010103
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Abstract

This article considers the phenomenon of online body display by users of social networking sites in Hong Kong. A survey of 392 young adults was conducted to investigate the relationships between narcissism, grandiose exhibitionism, body image satisfaction, perceived privacy risks, and online body display. A Body Display Index was developed to measure the perceived level of sexual explicitness of photographs shared by Facebook users. Grandiose exhibitionism, a sub-trait of narcissism, was found to be a stronger predictor of online body display than narcissism. The relationship between body image satisfaction and online body display was not significant, and no relationship was found between such displays and perceived privacy risks, thus implying a lack of social media-related privacy concerns among the respondents.
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Introduction

Since its handover to China in 1997, Hong Kong has maintained a diversified media system (Hong Kong Special Administration Region Government, 2013). According to Internet World Stats (2013), Hong Kong’s Facebook penetration rate at the end of 2012 was 56.4%, compared to a world average of just 14.4%. A study conducted by Socialbreaker (2014), an online market intelligence company, found that the 25-34 age group accounts for the largest proportion (approximately 34%) of Facebook users in Hong Kong, followed by the 18-24 age group (around 22%). In an online survey hosted by BlogHer and the Nielsen Company in 2011, 92% of the 387 Hong Kong respondents reported using Facebook on a weekly basis (BlogHer, 2011).

Photographs are among the most predominant types of content on Facebook, with users posting an estimated 30 billion photos per year (Savage, 2011). This enormous library of images has attracted considerable attention from scholars and industry practitioners alike (see e.g., Carpenter, 2012; Chen, & Cai, 2012; Hum et al., 2011; Wu, O’Brien-Strain, Messenlehner, & Tretter, 2011). Also, the issue of “selfies”—photos that people take of themselves—has been a topic of interest in the press since 2013. A nationwide representative survey of 2,005 U.K. adults performed by a private research company found that 51% had taken a selfie in the past, with 41% of the 18- to 24-year-old respondents admitting to having taken “sexy selfies” (“Half of the UK,” 2013). The same survey discovered Facebook to be the most popular channel for sharing selfies. One commentator suggested, “the rise of the selfie is a perfect metaphor for our increasingly narcissistic culture. We’re desperately crying out: Look at me!” (“What did Narcissus,” 2013).

This article considers the phenomenon of online body display among users on social networking sites in Hong Kong, and investigates how Hong Kong Facebook users construct their identities through online body display on this popular social networking site. More specifically, the analysis examines the relationship between narcissism, grandiose exhibitionism, body image satisfaction, perceived privacy risks, and online body display among young adults posting photos to Facebook.

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