Federica Pedalino, a 2019 graduate from the USI Master in Communication, Management and Health , was awarded the Best student-led paper award in the Health Communication division during the recent conference of the International Communication Association (ICA), one of the most important global associations in the field of Communication Sciences.
The 70th ICA annual conference was scheduled to take place from May 21 to 25 on the Gold Coast in Australia, but due to the ongoing sanitary situation it was held in digital mode. Federica presented the results of her Master’s thesis on the repercussions that social networks, in particular Instagram, can have on the perception of one’s own body among adolescents and young women. "This is a current and important topic, considering how widespread the use of these platforms is, especially among young people. The main problem arises from the use of Instagram to share photos and videos that users have the possibility to drastically modify through special tools, such as the so-called ’filters’, which even allow to eliminate some imperfections of their bodies. The physical appearance, in fact, plays a fundamental role on social media and many studies have confirmed that teenagers and young people in general may feel uncomfortable because of their appearance and therefore feel the pressure of having to appear ’perfect’ on social media, so as to feel more accepted - an approval which is received in terms of likes and followers’" says Federica.
This effect, in particular, may arise for two different reasons. "On the one hand - Federica explains - users with image sharing have the possibility to compare their physical appearance to that of others on a daily basis, ranging from friends to strangers, like the increasingly popular influencers". On the other hand, there is the internalisation of the ideals of beauty, which consists in considering certain values dictated by society as correct: "For example, girls tend to learn that being slim is the necessary basis to be happy, attractive and accepted by other people, while obesity is associated with social isolation. This is also linked to so-called social appearance anxiety , the fear of being evaluated negatively solely and exclusively on the basis of one’s physical appearance," Federica explains.
Through the questionnaires collected from 354 girls aged between 14 and 28 years, it emerged that the reasons for using Instagram do not seem to be directly related to dissatisfaction with their physcial appearance. However, the results showed that participants tend to deal more with influencers than their peers and this can play a key role in increasing levels of social appearance anxiety, generating dissatisfaction with their physical appearance as a side effect.
"Taking part in the ICA Conference was very pleasant and instructive. I had the opportunity to listen to presentations of studies conducted by numerous participants on a wide range of topics. Clearly, it would have been very exciting to be able to attend the conference onsite and share this milestone with my thesis speaker and co-author of the paper, Anne-Linda Camerini - I really owe a lot to her!" comments Federica. Dr. Camerini confirms she is extremely satisfied with what the student has achieved: "It is a pleasure to follow students who are so motivated and enthusiastic about the research topic chosen for their thesis. This passion translates into a desire for constant growth and encourages students to acquire skills beyond those learned during their studies. This has allowed Federica to obtain this prestigious award".
Federica is currently working as Press Office Assistant for ESMO, in Lugano: more information about her academic and professsional curriculum are available at www.usi.ch/en/feeds/13519