Skip to main content

Research Directions in Social Media and Body Image

Abstract

This commentary in response to Perloff (2014) suggests considerations for studying social media’s potential influence on body image. These are derived from Perloff’s transactional model of social media and body image. In investigating how social media use may influence body dissatisfaction in the United States, scholars should consider how the purposes and functions of social media differentiate them from traditional media effects theories. Individuals may be more likely to encounter unsought messages in social media than in traditional media. Social media messages have the potential to present much more diverse representations of female and male bodies because they are mostly produced and disseminated by individuals. Finally, social media offer the ability to reach a variety of at-risk groups with media literacy training. Media literacy training educates audiences about the purposes of messages, which can increase skepticism and possibly reduce message effects. Thus, media literacy training may address the media-related aspect of body dissatisfaction because it teaches critical and analytical skills. Theoretically driven models such as Perloff’s transactional model of social media and body image provide a fruitful basis of research.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Agosto, D. E., & Magee, R. M. (2014). A promising future: U.S. public libraries as informal media literacy educators. In B. S. De Abreu & P. Mihailidis (Eds.), Media literacy education in action: Theoretical and pedagogical perspectives (pp. 103–109). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berghoff, H., & Kühne, T. (2013). “It makes princes of those who have it”: Beauty and consumerism in the twentieth century. In H. Berghoff & T. Kühne (Eds.), Globalizing beauty: Consumerism and body aesthetics in the twentieth century (pp. 1–19). New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blashill, A. J. (2011). Gender roles, eating pathology, and body dissatisfaction in men: A meta-analysis. Body Image, 8, 1–11. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2010.09.002.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bordo, S. (1993). Unbearable weight: Feminism, Western culture, and the body. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Borzekowski, D. L. G., Schenk, S., Wilson, J. L., & Peebles, R. (2010). e-Ana and e-Mia: A content analysis of pro-eating disorder web sites. American Journal of Public Health, 100, 1526–1534. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.172700.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Botta, R. A. (2003). For your health? The relationship between magazine reading and adolescents’ body image and eating disturbances. Sex Roles, 48, 389–399. doi:10.1023/A:1023570326812.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • boyd, d. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, J. D., & Bobkowski, P. S. (2011). Older and newer media: Patterns of use and effects on adolescents’ health and well-being. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 95–113. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00717.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brumberg, J. J. (1992). From psychiatric syndrome to “communicable” disease: The case of anorexia nervosa. In C. E. Rosenberg & J. Golden (Eds.), Framing disease (pp. 134–154). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brumberg, J. J. (1997). The body project: An intimate history of American girls. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  • Buote, V. M., Wilson, A. E., Strahan, E. J., Gazzola, S. B., & Papps, F. (2011). Setting the bar: Divergent sociocultural norms for women’s and men’s ideal appearance in real-world contexts. Body Image, 8, 322–334. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2011.06.002.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Callaghan, G. M., Lopez, A., Wong, L., Northcross, J., & Anderson, K. R. (2011). Predicting consideration of cosmetic surgery in a college population: A continuum of body image disturbance and the importance of coping strategies. Body Image, 8, 267–274. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2011.04.002.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cash, T. F. (2002). Women’s body images. In G. M. Wingood & R. J. DiClemente (Eds.), Handbook of women’s sexual and reproductive health (pp. 175–194). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Chambers, K. L., & Alexander, S. M. (2007). Media literacy as an educational method for addressing college women’s body image issues. Education, 4, 490–497.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chou, W.-Y. S., Hunt, Y. M., Beckjord, E. B., Moser, R. P., & Hesse, B. W. (2009). Social media use in the United States: Implications for health communication. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 11, e48. doi:10.2196/jmir.1249.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davison, T. E., & McCabe, M. P. (2005). Relationships between men’s and women’s body image and their psychological, social, and sexual functioning. Sex Roles, 52, 463–475. doi:10.1007/s11199-005-3712-z.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • De Abreu, B. S., & Mihailidis, P. (2014). Introduction. In B. S. De Abreu & P. Mihailidis (Eds.), Media literacy education in action: Theoretical and pedagogical perspectives (pp. xxii- xxx). New York: Routledge.

  • Duggan, S. J., & McCreary, D. R. (2004). Body image, eating disorders, and the drive for muscularity in gay and heterosexual men: The influence of media images. Journal of Homosexuality, 47(3–4), 45–58. doi:10.1300/J082v47n03_03.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Duggan, M., & Smith, A. (2014, January). Social media update 2013. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Social-Media-Update.aspx.

  • Duke, L. (2000). Black in a blonde world: Race and girls’ interpretations of the feminine ideal in teen magazines. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 77, 367–392. doi:10.1177/107769900007700210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fernandez, S., & Pritchard, M. (2012). Relationships between self-esteem, media influence and drive for thinness. Eating Behaviors, 13, 321–325. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2012.05.004.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fouts, G., & Vaughan, K. (2002). Television situation comedies: Male weight, negative references, and audience reactions. Sex Roles, 46, 439–442. doi:10.1023/A:1020469715532.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gallagher, M. (2001). The push and pull of action and research in feminist media studies. Feminist Media Studies, 1, 11–15. doi:10.1080/14680770120042774.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1980). The “mainstreaming” of America: Violence profile no. 11. Journal of Communication, 30(3), 10–29. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1980.tb01987.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grogan, S. (2008). Body image: Understanding body dissatisfaction in men, women and children (2nd ed.). Hove: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Halliwell, E., Easun, A., & Harcourt, D. (2011). Body dissatisfaction: Can a short media literacy message reduce negative media exposure effects amongst adolescent girls? British Journal of Health Psychology, 16, 396–403. doi:10.1348/135910710X515714.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hanna, R., Rohm, A., & Crittenden, V. L. (2011). We’re all connected: The power of the social media ecosystem. Business Horizons, 54, 265–273. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2011.01.007.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hargreaves, D., & Tiggemann, M. (2009). Muscular ideal media images and men’s body image: Social comparison processing and individual vulnerability. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 10, 109–119. doi:10.1037/a0014691.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Homan, K. (2010). Athletic-ideal and thin-ideal internalization as prospective predictors of body dissatisfaction, dieting, and compulsive exercise. Body Image, 7, 240–245. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2010.02.004.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jeong, S.-H., Cho, H., & Hwang, Y. (2012). Media literacy interventions: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Communication, 62, 454–472. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2012.01643.x.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Katz, E., Blumler, J. G., & Gurevitch, M. (1974). Utilization of mass communication by the individual. In J. G. Blumler & E. Katz (Eds.), The uses of mass communication (pp. 19–34). Beverly Hills: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Law, C., & Labre, M. P. (2002). Cultural standards of attractiveness: A thirty-year look at changes in male images in magazines. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 79, 697–711. doi:10.1177/107769900207900310.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lee, A. Y. L. (2014). Hong Kong media education in the web 2.0 era. In B. S. De Abreu & P. Mihailidis (Eds.), Media literacy education in action: Theoretical and pedagogical perspectives (pp. 87–93). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lee, H.-R., Lee, H. E., Choi, J., Kim, J. H., & Han, H. L. (2014). Social media use, body image, and psychological well-being: A cross-cultural comparison of Korea and the United States. Journal of Health Communication. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2014.904022.

  • Levine, M. P., & Chapman, K. (2011). Media influences on body image. In T. F. Cash & L. Smolak (Eds.), Body image: A handbook of science, practice, and prevention (2nd ed., pp. 101–110). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levine, M. P., & Harrison, K. (2009). Media and body image. In J. Bryant & M. B. Oliver (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (3rd ed., pp. 490–516). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Manovich, L. (2009). The practice of everyday (media) life: From mass consumption to mass cultural production? Critical Inquiry, 35, 319–331. doi:10.1086/596645.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mihailidis, P. (2014). A case for curation as a media literacy imperative for participatory culture. In B. S. De Abreu & P. Mihailidis (Eds.), Media literacy education in action: Theoretical and pedagogical perspectives (pp. 29–36). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, M., & Shanahan, J. (2010). The state of cultivation. Mass Communication & Society, 54, 337–355. doi:10.1080/08838151003735018.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morrison, M. A., Morrison, T. G., & Sager, C.-L. (2004). Does body satisfaction differ between gay men and lesbian women and heterosexual men and women? A meta-analytic review. Body Image, 1, 127–138. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2004.01.002.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Murnen, S. K. (2011). Gender and body images. In T. F. Cash & L. Smolak (Eds.), Body image: A handbook of science, practice, and prevention (2nd ed., pp. 173–179). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Murray, D. P. (2013). Branding “real” social change in Dove’s campaign for real beauty. Feminist Media Studies, 13, 83–101. doi:10.1080/14680777.2011.647963.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Neff, J. (2006, October 29). Better ROI from YouTube video than Super Bowl spot: Dove’s viral hit ‘Evolution’ is a real beauty. AdAge.com. Retrieved from http://adage.com/article/news/roi-youtube-video-super-bowl-spot/112835/.

  • Neff, J. (2013, June 11). Dove: The evolution from ‘Evolution’: Eight years later, how Unilever brand scored another viral hit. AdAge.com. Retrieved from http://adage.com/article/news/dove-evolution-evolution/241971/.

  • Newcomb, A. (2012, March 21). Pinterest boards encourage eating disorders. ABCNews.go.com. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/03/pinterest-boards-encourage-eating-disorders/.

  • Newman, A. A. (2010, September 2). Men’s cosmetics becoming a bull market. The New York Times, p. E3.

  • O’Keeffe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). Clinical report—The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics, 127, 800–804. doi:10.1542/peds. 2011-0054.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oliver, M. B., Hoewe, J., Ash, E., Kim, K., Chung, M.-Y., & Shade, D. D. (2014). Media and social groups. In M. B. Oliver & A. A. Raney (Eds.), Media and social life (pp. 81–97). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peplau, L. A., Frederick, D. A., Yee, C., Maisel, N., Lever, J., & Ghavami, N. (2009). Body image satisfaction in heterosexual, gay, and lesbian adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 713–725. doi:10.1007/s10508-008-9378-1.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Perloff, R. M. (2014). Social media effects on young women’s body image concerns: Theoretical perspectives and an agenda for research. Sex Roles, this issue. doi: 10.1007/s11199-014-0384-6.

  • Posavac, H. D., Posavac, S. S., & Weigel, R. G. (2001). Reducing the impact of media images on women at risk for body image disturbance: Three targeted interventions. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 20, 324–340. doi:10.1521/jscp.20.3.324.22308.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Potter, W. J. (2004). Theory of media literacy: A cognitive approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ransom, D. C., La Guardia, J. G., Woody, E. Z., & Boyd, J. L. (2010). Interpersonal interactions on online forums addressing eating concerns. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 43, 161–170. doi:10.1002/eat.20629.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rubin, A. M. (2009). Uses-and-gratifications perspective on media effects. In J. Bryant & M. B. Oliver (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (3rd ed., pp. 165–184). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz, J., & Andsager, J. L. (2011). Four decades of images in gay male-targeted magazines. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 88, 76–98. doi:10.1177/107769901108800105.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shoemaker, P. J., Tankard, J. W., Jr., & Lasorsa, D. L. (2004). How to build social science theories. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Singhal, A., & Rogers, E. M. (1999). Entertainment-education: A communication strategy for social change. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, A. R., Hawkeswood, S. E., Bodell, L. P., & Joiner, T. E. (2011). Muscularity versus leanness: An examination of body ideals and predictors of disordered eating in heterosexual and gay college students. Body Image, 8, 232–236. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2011.03.005.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Strong, S. M., Williamson, D. A., Netemeyer, R. G., & Geer, J. H. (2000). Eating disorder symptoms and concerns differ as a function of gender and sexual orientation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 19, 240–255. doi:10.1521/jscp.2000.19.2.240.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wilksch, S. M., & Wade, T. D. (2009). Reduction of shape and weight concern in young adolescents: A 30-month controlled evaluation of a media literacy program. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 48, 652–661. doi:10.1097/CHI.0b013e3181a1f559.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wykes, M., & Gunter, B. (2005). The media and body image: If looks could kill. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Julie L. Andsager.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Andsager, J.L. Research Directions in Social Media and Body Image. Sex Roles 71, 407–413 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-014-0430-4

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-014-0430-4

Keywords

  • Social media
  • Body image
  • Media literacy
  • Sexual orientation
  • Uses and gratifications