Date: 29 May 2014

Social Media Effects on Young Women’s Body Image Concerns: Theoretical Perspectives and an Agenda for Research

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Abstract

Although there is a voluminous literature on mass media effects on body image concerns of young adult women in the U.S., there has been relatively little theoretically-driven research on processes and effects of social media on young women’s body image and self-perceptions. Yet given the heavy online presence of young adults, particularly women, and their reliance on social media, it is important to appreciate ways that social media can influence perceptions of body image and body image disturbance. Drawing on communication and social psychological theories, the present article articulates a series of ideas and a framework to guide research on social media effects on body image concerns of young adult women. The interactive format and content features of social media, such as the strong peer presence and exchange of a multitude of visual images, suggest that social media, working via negative social comparisons, transportation, and peer normative processes, can significantly influence body image concerns. A model is proposed that emphasizes the impact of predisposing individual vulnerability characteristics, social media uses, and mediating psychological processes on body dissatisfaction and eating disorders. Research-based ideas about social media effects on male body image, intersections with ethnicity, and ameliorative strategies are also discussed.