Print Edition - 2017-03-09  |  Health and Living

Friends’ pictures on social media have biggest impact on body image

  • Study finds

Mar 9, 2017-

Seeing friends’ carefully curated selfies on Facebook is more likely to induce feelings of guilt or shame among young women, and lead to unnecessary dieting, than images of models or celebrities they see in magazines. Academics found that young women are more likely to compare their appearance with that of their peers’ images on social media than they were with celebrities on TV, adverts or other forms of traditional media. When they then make an unfavourable comparison with the other woman they are looking at, the impact is more pronounced when the image is on social media.

Women are also more likely to diet and do exercise when negative comparisons take place on sites such as Facebook or Instagram, the research found. The vast majority of study participants were not overweight and did not need to diet. The study, which questioned about 150 young women who completed five daily surveys over a five-day period, found that participants overwhelmingly considered themselves less attractive than the people they saw both online and in traditional media. The negative impact that thin models and airbrushed adverts have on young women has been a source of concern for decades, but increasing attention is being paid to the role of social media. Around 70% of women aged 18 to 35 regularly edit their images before posting them according to research by the Renfrew Center Foundation, a US organisation that specialises in tackling eating disorders. 

Natasha Devon, the former children’s mental health champion, and co-founder of the Self-Esteem Team, said that PSHE (personal, social and health education classes in schools)—which cover topics such as body image—should be made compulsory.

Published: 09-03-2017 09:22

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