We live in an Instagram society where posting the best pictures has become a priority for many. But you’d be surprised to know the selfie taking habits differ in each society. Surprisingly enough, it has a lot to do with economics.
UNSW scientists have conducted a new study in order to disclose the answer to why women take selfies in which they look beautiful. They found that women have a propensity to sexualize themselves in environments with greater economic variation.
For this study, scientists analyzed tens of thousands of social media posts across 113 countries. They tracked posts where people had taken selfies and then noted that they were tagged hot or similar.
Lead author Dr. Khandis Blake from UNSW said that they looked at where in the world these things happened most. The number one way that psychologists usually look at women’s anxiety with their appearance is that it happens because of patriarchal pressures – which women live in societies that value their appearance more than their other qualities.
He said, “What we found in its place is that women are more likely to invest time and effort into posting sexy selfies online in places where economic inequality is rising, and not in places where men hold more societal power and gender inequality is extensive.”
Scientists found the same results across different geographic locations, even after taking into account and controlling for other factors that could manipulate patterns, like population size, human development, and internet access.
Scientists noted that income difference increases competitiveness and status anxiety between people at all levels of the social ladder, making them aware to where they sit on the social ladder and wanting them to do better than others.
That income inequality is a big interpreter of beautiful selfies suggests that these selfies are a marker of social climbing among women that tracks economic incentives in the local environment. Precisely or accidentally, in today’s environment, looking attractive can create large returns, economically, socially, and personally.
Dr. Blake said, “What we found in more than 1000 different economic areas in the US when looking at women’s spending in beauty salons and clothing stores is that income inequality is also predicting this type of spending. In evolutionary terms, these kinds of behaviors are totally logical, even adaptive. The basic idea is that the way people struggle for mates, and the things they do to put themselves at the top of the hierarchy are really important. This is where this research fits in – it’s all about how women are competing and why they’re competing.”
Consequently, when a young woman adjusts her bikini provocatively with her phone at the ready, don’t think of her as unintelligent or as a prey. Think of her as a deliberate player in a multifaceted social and evolutionary game. She’s out to maximize her lot in life, just like everyone.