Effect of Social Media on Body Image (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) – Journal of Eating Disorders




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“Recent research suggests that social networking sites (SNSs: Facebook and Instagram) are increasingly used by college-aged females as the preferred social resource over conventional media forms, for example magazines and television [19]. Moreover, a growing literature suggests that SNSs have addictive properties [20]. Social comparison theory postulates that individuals are more likely to engage in comparisons with similar (peer groups) rather than dissimilar (others) personal attributes [21]. Accordingly, the relationship between AC and BID should be enhanced in SNSs where portrayed females are perceived as real, age- and status-related, and thus more personally identified with in contrast to professional models in conventional media [22].

Studies of self-presentation within SNSs have consistently found that users strategically manipulate their profiles in accordance with societal ideals of attractiveness [23–25]. Women viewing images of professional models represented in conventional forms of media remain aware that these have been digitally enhanced [26] thereby reducing the likelihood of self- comparison and propensity for BID [27]. In contrast, SNS images of ‘real’ women are assumed to be digitally unaltered and, hence accepted as more accurate and personally relevant [28].

Facebook is a popular SNS [29], with more than a billion active users [30]. Fifty eight percent of users are women [31] with users spending around an average of 16 h accessing Facebook per month [30]. In Australia there are currently 11,489,580 Facebook users, with the largest age group being 25–34 year-olds, followed by 18–24 year-olds [31].

Social media, unlike conventional media, also provides a virtual forum for fat talk, conversational threads about one’s own and other’s eating and exercise habits, weight concerns and ideal body shapes [32], thus serving to intensify the influence of AC on BID [33]. Typical Facebook profiles contain strategically selected thin photos of peers coupled with complimentary comments on appearance; for example “you look so skinny and beautiful” [24]. One study [34] found that 70.2 % of profiles of American undergraduate students referenced exercise and 12.3 %, eating habits with comments like “just did my morning work-out, feeling great!”. Of 600 Facebook users aged 16 to 40, 50 % reported that Facebook content made them more body-conscious; 31 % feeling “sad” as a result of comparing photos of themselves to those of Facebook friends, and 44 % reported desiring the same body or weight as Facebook friends [35].”


Article in the Journal of Eating Disorders analyzing the effect of social media, like Facebook and Instagram, have on body image satisfaction.


  • Rachel Cohen and Alex Blaszczynski


  • Comparative effects of Facebook and conventional media on body image dissatisfaction


  • Journal of Eating Disorders


  • July 2, 2015


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