Updating your body image status: The relationship between Facebook use and body image in university men and women


Previous research has shown that adolescent girls who used Facebook more frequently reported greater internalization of the thin ideal, body surveillance, and drive for thinness. Given that university students represent a vulnerable population of individuals with body image concerns and a group of active Facebook users, the present study investigated the relationship between the activities and motives of Facebook use and body image in university men and women. Participants were 65 men and 134 women from Brock University with a mean age of 20.6 years old (SD = 2.2). Individuals completed body image and Facebook measures. The majority of participants reported having a private profile (86%) and indicated using Facebook 7 days a week (74%).  For men, there was a significant relationship between checking their newsfeed often and trait self-objectification (r = -.253, p<.01). In addition, using Facebook for companionship reasons was associated with social physique anxiety (r = .302, p<.05), body shame (r = .330, p<.01), and self-objectification (r = -.273, p<.05). For women, reading wall posts on their friends’ pages (r = .320, p<.01) and using Facebook because it is cool and trending (r = -.282, p<.01) were associated with self-objectification. Further, using Facebook as a form of escape was associated with drive for muscularity (r = -.179, p<.05), self-objectification (r = -.215, p<.05), social physique anxiety (r = .193, p<.05) and body shame (r = .219, p<.05). In addition, the use of Facebook groups was related to dietary restraint (r = .178, p<.05) and social physique anxiety (r = -.175, p<.05). This preliminary evidence suggests that the specific features of Facebook used and the motives for using Facebook are related to body image in university students. By acknowledging this association we can start to develop coping strategies to help eliminate the negative effects of social media use.