Body Image And Social Media

New findings show negative impact among young women.

By Shirley Archer, JD, MA
Feb 11, 2019

A recent study provides more evidence that body image suffers when young women view photos of attractive peers on social media.

York University researchers in Toronto found that young women aged 18–27 who actively engaged with pictures of attractive female peers felt more negative about themselves afterward, even if they felt bad about themselves before the study. Study author Jennifer Mills, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, said, “We really need to educate young people on how social media use could be making them feel about themselves and how this could be linked to stringent dieting, eating disorders or excessive exercise. There are people who may be triggered by social media who are especially vulnerable.”

Lead study author Jacqueline Hogue, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology, says fitness professionals can help clients by sharing with them the message that “comparing yourself to social media images is likely going to make you feel at least slightly worse about your body afterwards. Arm clients with this knowledge so they can pay attention to their own momentary reactions and feelings if they choose to engage with such images.”

Limitations of the study included its small sample size—just 118 students—and the fact that the sample was drawn from one university. The YU researchers recommended that future studies look at the impact of active social media engagement on young men’s body image and whether certain individuals are more affected than others. The study appeared in Body Image (2018; doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.11.002).

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Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at www.shirleyarcher.com.

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