Examining the self-reported advantages and disadvantages of socially networking about body image and eating disorders

Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, Ellen E. Fitzsimmons-Craft, Melissa J. Krauss, Nnenna Anako, Christine Xu, Erin Kasson, Shaina J. Costello, Denise E. Wilfley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: The purpose of this study is to understand the self-reported advantages and disadvantages of socially networking about body image/eating disorders (EDs) and to examine the openness of these participants to online outreach and support for ED symptoms. Method: A cross-sectional online survey was conducted with a sample of N = 598. Eligible participants were ≥15 years old, English-speaking, and U.S. residents who endorsed posting or following thin-ideal/body-image content on social media. Quantitative measures were used to assess online peer support and online interaction preferences, and to identify ED symptoms. Deductive and inductive qualitative approaches were used to analyze open-ended items about the advantages and disadvantages of social networking about thin-ideal content on social media platforms (SMPs). Results: Among those who posted about the thin-ideal on social media, 70% felt that the peer responses were positive and supportive. Participants generally favored online interaction, and a third stated that they would accept support from someone they did not know online (38%). The most common advantages noted for posting/following thin-ideal content on SMPs were motivation/encouragement to engage in a certain behavior, socializing, and information giving/seeking. The most common disadvantages mentioned for posting/following thin-ideal content on SMPs were that the content elicits negative/bad feelings, having to deal with the negative consequences/reactions of others when socially networking about this topic, and that it triggers a desire to engage in ED behaviors. Discussion: With these findings, researchers, health practitioners, and social media administrators can devise ways to reduce harmful consequences of posting/following body-image/ED content on social media.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-863
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Volume53
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Keywords

  • body image
  • eating disorders
  • social media

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