When it comes to looking hot online, women are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. There’s constant pressure to get attention from men, but there are definite social consequences, a new study finds.

We can’t help but check Facebook, even though studies suggest it can trigger feelings of envy, worsen our self-esteem, and make us feel lonely. Beyond the emotional, some studies link spending time on Facebook to eating disorders.

A recent CNN article explored how we are now exposed to more and more images of unattainable beauty, thanks to social networking: “Before social networks, we mostly had images of impossibly perfect celebrities. We would pass these images on billboards, watch them on TV, flip through them in magazines, but we weren’t sitting around staring at them for hours every day.”

And it’s not just the exposure to these images that is damaging. It’s our interaction with them—the pressure to have the perfect profile pics, the comparisons we make, and the dangers of the constant scrutiny of our own and others’ bodies.

When looking at images of girls in a magazine almost all us know that they are altered electronically to appear perfect. When it comes to social media such as Facebook, most believe that they are looking at raw pictures, or ‘real girls.’ Whether this is true or not, they are ultimately used as a standard of comparison.

Researchers from Oregon State University found that girls and young women who post revealing photos online are seen as less competent by their female peers. They’re also rated as less physically attractive and less desirable as a friend.

Their study, which was published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture, had teen girls and young adult women look at a Facebook profile and rate what they thought of the subject. One version had a sexy profile pic, and the other didn’t, but everything else remained the same. Participants rated the non-sexy profile higher across the board.

It shouldn’t be too much of a news flash to find out that provocative poses come with costs. But is it really the poster’s fault if women are offended? The study’s results speak more to a culture that simultaneously punishes and rewards female sexuality. “What does this tell us about gender?” researcher Elizabeth Daniels asked in a statement. “These conversations should be part of everyday life.”

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