Social media, body image, and eating

This project seeks to understand how social media and the online world relate to people’s body image, eating attitudes and eating behaviours.

Media content is known to influence people’s body ideals, how they feel about their bodies and potentially lead to disordered eating behaviours. Social media is more pervasive than traditional media due to the continuous addition of new content and increased accessibility through mobile phone apps. It may also have a stronger influence on those engaging with the content through ability to compare appearance and level of validation (likes/comments) with peers, nut just models or celebrities. On the other hand, social media provides a platform for members of the public to challenge and provide alternative ideals to traditional notions of beauty, thus providing the opportunity for social change.  

This project is comprised of a series of studies that are exploring how social media usage and viewing popular social media trends relate to body image and disordered eating.  

One strand of this project is a series of studies looking at health and fitness content on social media and how people respond to this content, in terms of self-esteem and body image. This includes fitspiration content from image-based platforms like Instagram.  

A second strand looks at how content on social media and online might challenge societal beauty/body ideals and promote a more positive body image in viewers. This work looks at images used in fashion brand advertising as well as content uploaded by the general population under popular hashtags (e.g., ‘bodypositivity’).