Nav: Home

Social media is affecting the way we view our bodies -- and not in a good way

November 15, 2018

TORONTO, Nov. 15, 2018 - Young women who actively engage with social media images of friends who they think are more attractive than themselves report feeling worse about their own appearance afterward, a York University study shows.

It's no secret that social media can blur the lines on what's real and what's fantasy, but new research at York's Faculty of Health now shows how young women interact with images online can affect how they feel about their own bodies.

The research entitled "The effects of active social media engagement with peers on body image in young women" appears in the journal Body Image. The study was conducted by Jennifer Mills, associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Jacqueline Hogue, a PhD student in the department's Clinical Program. It focused on young women, aged 18 to 27 years old, who liked or commented on photos of people they deemed to be more attractive than themselves.

"The results showed that these young adult women felt more dissatisfied with their bodies," says Mills. "They felt worse about their own appearance after looking at social media pages of someone that they perceived to be more attractive than them. Even if they felt bad about themselves before they came into the study, on average, they still felt worse after completing the task."

The research included 118 female undergraduate students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Participants reported their age, ethnicity, whether English was their first language, and years of post-secondary education in an online questionnaire six weeks before the experiment. Each participant was given a consent form and questionnaire where they had to indicate using a specific scale how satisfied or dissatisfied they were with their appearance or body image.

Participants were then randomly assigned into one of two experimental conditions. One group of participants were asked to log into Facebook and Instagram for a period of five or more minutes and find one peer that was the same age who they felt was more attractive than themselves. After looking at the photos, each participant was asked to leave a comment of their choice. In the control group, participants were asked to do the same task except this time comment on a post of a family member whom they did not think was more attractive than themselves. The data showed that participants' views of their own appearance were not affected when interacting with their family members.

"I think in a lot of cases, young women who post to social media are hoping to get positive reinforcement for what they're posting and the way in which women use social media is more appearance-based than it is for men."

Mills said particularly in this age group, 18 to mid-20's, appearance is very important, and women care a great deal about how they are perceived by other people. They are also most likely to use social media.

"When we compare ourselves to other people, that has the potential to affect the valuation of ourselves," says Mills. We really need to educate young people on how social media use could be making them feel about themselves and how this could even be linked to stringent dieting, eating disorders or excessive exercise. There are people who may be triggered by social media and who are especially vulnerable."
-end-
York University champions new ways of thinking that drive teaching and research excellence. Our students receive the education they need to create big ideas that make an impact on the world. Meaningful and sometimes unexpected careers result from cross-disciplinary programming, innovative course design and diverse experiential learning opportunities. York students and graduates push limits, achieve goals and find solutions to the world's most pressing social challenges, empowered by a strong community that opens minds. York U is an internationally recognized research university - our 11 faculties and 25 research centres have partnerships with 200+ leading universities worldwide. Located in Toronto, York is the third largest university in Canada, with a strong community of 53,000 students, 7,000 faculty and administrative staff, and more than 300,000 alumni.

York U's fully bilingual Glendon Campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education.

Media Contact:

Anjum Nayyar, York University Media Relations, 416-736-2100 ext. 44543, anayyar@yorku.ca">anayyar@yorku.ca">anayyar@yorku.ca">anayyar@yorku.ca

York University

Related Social Media Articles:

Using social media to understand the vaccine debate in China
Vaccine acceptance is a crucial public health issue, which has been exacerbated by the use of social media to spread content expressing vaccine hesitancy.
Vaccine misinformation and social media
People who rely on social media for information were more likely to be misinformed about vaccines than those who rely on traditional media, according to a study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.
How social media makes breakups that much worse
Even those who use Facebook features like unfriending, unfollowing, blocking and Take a Break still experience troubling encounters with ex-partners online, a new study shows.
Teens must 'get smart' about social media
New research indicates that social media is leading young adolescent girls and boys down a worrying path towards developing body image issues and eating disorder behaviours - even though they are smartphone savvy.
Social media use and disordered eating in young adolescents
New research published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders suggests that social media, particularly platforms with a strong focus on image posting and viewing, is associated with disordered eating in young adolescents.
STD crowd-diagnosis requests on social media
Online postings seeking information on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) on the social media website Reddit were analyzed to see how often requests were made for a crowd-diagnosis and whether the requested diagnosis was for a second opinion after seeing a health care professional.
Cynical social media voices can erode trust in news media
Amid rising concerns about low public trust in mainstream media institutions, a Rutgers study found that real-life and online social interactions can strongly influence a person's trust in newspaper, TV and online journalism -- but when it comes to online interactions, cynical views are the most influential.
Social media use by adolescents linked to internalizing behaviors
A new study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more likely to report high levels of internalizing behaviors compared to adolescents who do not use social media at all.
Social media stress can lead to social media addiction
Social network users risk becoming more and more addicted to social media platforms even as they experience stress from their use.
Many post on social media under the influence of drugs -- and regret it
Posting on social media, texting, and appearing in photos while high is prevalent among people who use drugs--and many regret these behaviors, according to a study by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health.
More Social Media News and Social Media Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.