Compare and despair or compare and explore? Instagram social comparisons of ability and opinion predict adolescent identity development



Whilst there is an emerging literature concerning social comparisons on social networking sites (SNSs), very little is known about the extent to which such behaviours inform adolescent identity. Drawing upon the three-factor model of identity development (Crocetti, Rubini & Meeus, 2008), this study seeks to determine the relationship between Instagram comparisons of ability and opinion and three identity processes: commitment, in-depth exploration, and reconsideration of commitment. 177 British adolescents responded to a paper survey (Mage = 15.45; Female, 54.8%) between December 2018 and February 2019. Instagram social comparisons of ability were positively associated with commitment and in-depth exploration, whilst their relationship with reconsideration of commitment was moderated by gender. In contrast, Instagram social comparisons of opinion were positively related with in-depth exploration and reconsideration of commitment. Findings suggest that although both forms of social comparison behaviour may evoke adolescents to explore their identity, Instagram social comparisons of ability may have less maladaptive identity implications for adolescent males.

Identity development; identity dimensions; variable-centred; adolescent; Instagram; social comparison
Author biography

Edward John Noon

Sheffield Hallam University

Edward Noon is an Associate Lecturer and PhD Candidate at Sheffield Hallam University, England. His research interests involve social networking sites and adolescent development. His doctoral research concerns Instagram social comparisons and adolescent identity development


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