Comparative effects of Facebook and conventional media on body image dissatisfaction

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Journal of Eating Disorders, 2015, 3 (1)
Issue Date:
2015-01-01
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© 2015 Cohen and Blaszczynski. Background: Appearance comparison has consistently been shown to engender body image dissatisfaction. To date, most studies have demonstrated this relationship between appearance comparison and body image dissatisfaction in the context of conventional media images depicting the thin-ideal. Social comparison theory posits that people are more likely to compare themselves to similar others. Since social media forums such as Facebook involve one's peers, the current study aimed to determine whether the relationship between appearance comparison and body image dissatisfaction would be stronger for those exposed to social media images, compared to conventional media images. Methods: A sample of 193 female first year university students were randomly allocated to view a series of either Facebook or conventional media thin-ideal images. Participants completed questionnaires assessing pre- and post- image exposure measures of thin-ideal internalisation, appearance comparison, self-esteem, Facebook use and eating disorder risk. Results: Type of exposure was not found to moderate the relationship between appearance comparison and changes in body image dissatisfaction. When analysed according to exposure type, appearance comparison only significantly predicted body image dissatisfaction change for those exposed to Facebook, but not conventional media. Facebook use was found to predict higher baseline body image dissatisfaction and was associated with higher eating disorder risk. Conclusions: The findings suggest the importance of extending the body image dissatisfaction literature by taking into account emerging social media formats. It is recommended that interventions for body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders consider appearance comparison processes elicited by thin-ideal content on social media forums, such as Facebook, in addition to conventional media.
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