Aggression Can Drive Females Posting of Selfies

woman taking a selfie at the beach

Female selfie posting is associated with intimidatory self-presentation strategies, which are linked to higher levels of aggression, new Swansea University research indicates. Professor Phil Reed of the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, along with academics from the University of Strathclyde, conducted the research.

The researchers looked at 150 people’s social media posts of selfies and non-selfies, assessing how they used different types of self-presentation strategies and how they interacted with others to make an impression.

Females posted five selfies and ten non-selfies per month on average, while males posted two selfies and six non-selfies. However, there was a wide variety of selfie posts, with some posting more than 40 selfies per month.

Intimidating Self-representation Strategy

Participants were recruited through social media and email advertisements. Respondents received an information sheet, consent form, and a link to the online survey if they consented. They were requested to complete an online survey.

The extent to which females used intimidating self-presentational strategies was the strongest predictor of selfie posting.

The more they tended to produce actions in the real world to project a powerful and dangerous personality to instill fear in others, the more selfies they posted. These selfies were aimed not specifically at men or women but at the whole online community.

Males showed no correlation between real-world intimidatory self-presentation and selfie posting, but their desire to avoid punishment, that is, to fit in and be accepted, predicted selfie sharing.

This result differs from earlier research done in real-world settings, where females do not exhibit associations between this aggressive trait and their behaviours as strongly as males do.

Women Just As Aggressive as Men

When the usual social constraints that operate in the ‘real world’ are removed, it may facilitate the expression of this aggressive facet of female personality, according to professor Phil Reed from Swansea University’s School of Psychology.

“These results suggest that traditional androcentric views of aggression need to be altered. Thinking of aggression by females as a result of some slightly male-like physiology in those females or as a mating strategy directed against other females will not do,”

Reed said.

Rather, digital behaviour suggests that women are not programmed to be passive but are just as actively aggressive as men, and in some cases even more so — and not just when it comes to finding a partner.

This study is a continuation of previous team research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, which also found that intimidating self-presentation was most strongly associated with female selfie posting.

While males were generally more assertive than females in the real world, there was no difference between genders in the use of aggressive self-presentation strategies; in fact, males tended to demonstrate higher levels of ingratiation strategies than females.

“While males reported being more assertive in the real world, these behaviours were not always associated with their online behaviour, where females tended to let their aggressive traits guide their behaviour more than males. This may reflect the operation of a different set of social-role norms or their absence in online settings,”

said Reed.

The findings are consistent with several performative theories of identity.

It should be noted, however, that it is possible the findings may not be representative of typical social media users or similar to other sample populations who would not be inclined to respond to such a survey request outreach ad. The study also relied on self-reported posting data, and actual posting data would be a valuable addition to future studies.

  1. Lisa Galbraith, Phil Reed, Jo Saunders. Intimidatory Assertive Self-presentation in Selfie Posting is Greater in Females than Males. The Journal of Social Media in Society, Fall 2022, Vol.11, No.2, Page 264-277
  2. Phil Reed, Jo Saunders. Sex differences in online assertive self-presentation strategies. Personality and Individual Differences (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2020.110214