Research on the relationship between media and self-esteem may be based in media theory and feminist theory; both draw heavily on critical cultural studies. In recent years, numerous analysts in feminist media studies have critiqued underlying assumptions and incorporated new avenues of research. Currently, attention to social media has become prominent, overshadowing the previous focus on mainstream media, especially television and magazines. Body image, including aspects such as race, gender, and sexual identity, plays a large role in self-esteem. Theories of intersectionality are especially applicable to this line of research.
Research into self-esteem has increased lately due to a growing recognition of the importance of self-esteem for identity formation among children, adolescents, and young adults, who constitute the majority of users of social media and obtain the majority of their information from it. The racial and gendered dimensions of social media usage are likewise coming under increasing scrutiny. The positive potential uses of social media for LGBTQ people, contrasted to the promotion of heterosexual or cisgender images and the tendency to ignore or denigrate LGBT identities, is also gaining attention.
In addition, the long-term focus on body image in feminist scholarship has broadened to include emotional and intellectual issues, such as depictions of female involvement in pastimes, academic studies, and careers that have traditional gender biases. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines have received particular scrutiny.