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Are There Any Disparities Between Men and Women and How They're Affected by Body Image Content on Social Media?

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If you mindlessly scroll through Instagram or Facebook whenever you get a few seconds of downtime, you’re far from alone

But have you ever wondered how all those images of other people’s bodies – whether your friend’s holiday snap or a celebrity’s gym selfie – could be affecting how you view your own? Much has been made over the years about how mainstream media presents unrealistic beauty standards in the form of photoshopped celebrities or stick-thin fashion models. Now that influencers fill up our feeds, it's easy to imagine that social media, too, is all bad when it comes to body image.

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Social media has been associated with body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms among young women and adolescent girls. However, despite notable evidence of susceptibility to body image pressures, it remains unknown whether these associations generalize to sexual minority men. A nationwide sample of 2,733 sexual minority men completed an online survey advertised to Australian and New Zealand users of a popular dating app. Participants answered questions about how frequently they used 11 different social media platforms in addition to questions about their dating app use, body image, eating disorder symptoms, and anabolic steroids. Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Snapchat were the most frequently used social media platforms. A pattern of small-sized and positive associations emerged between social media use and body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms, and thoughts about using anabolic steroids. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat evidenced the strongest associations. The associations of social media use with both muscularity dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms were stronger for image-centric social media platforms (e.g., Instagram) than nonimage-centric platforms (e.g., Wordpress); no differences were observed for body fat dissatisfaction, height dissatisfaction, or thoughts about using anabolic steroids. Previously documented associations of social media use with body dissatisfaction and related variables among women and girls appear to generalize to sexual minority men. Social media platforms that more centrally involve imagery may be of greater concern than nonimage-centric platforms

Additional research with sexual minority men is needed to elucidate the distinctions between adaptive and maladaptive social media use in the context of body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, and anabolic steroid use.

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Mental health problems have increased, especially among young people, over the last decade. The most common mental problems are behavioural, emotional, and hyperkinetic disorders. Among these illnesses, disordered eating behaviours are rapidly increasing in a short time, especially among young women

These disordered attitudes are defined as afflictions in which people suffer severe disruption in their eating behaviours, thoughts and emotions (Bailey A.P., Parker A.G., 2014). The people who suffer from these complaints are usually preoccupied with food and weight. In this sense, disordered eating is used to describe a range of irregular eating behaviours that may or may not warrant a diagnosis of a specific disordered eating attitude. These disorders usually occur in women in their twenties or during adolescence. People who suffer these disorders usually present altered attitudes, behaviours, weight perception and physical appearance Moreover, disordered eating behaviours or attitudes are defined as unhealthy or maladaptive eating behaviours, such as restricting or binging and/or purging. These behaviours are not categorized as an eating disorder, though they are considered a phase of diagnosed eating disorders (Telch C.F., Pratt E.M., 1997). Although these diseases have a crucial psychobiological component, social and cultural factors have a significant influence. Among these factors, advertising has been described as an internalizing or normalizing means to spread unrealistic beauty ideals.

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Ultimately, recent evidence indicates that interactive media-based web technologies, such as social networking sites, have an appreciable effect on users’ perceptions of and attitudes toward their own bodies, as well as resultant weight and shape control behaviours. However, little research has been done to investigate whether social media differentially influence gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, who are known to be at increased risk of body image disorders compared to their heterosexual counterparts

The current paper aims to address this gap by surveying and extending existing theory, using a critical review methodology, to derive a provisional theoretical model that explains how social media influence body image and weight and shape control behaviours of sexual minority men in particular. Our proposed model serves as an extension to the transactional model of social media and body image concerns, which includes additions to individual vulnerability factors (perceived self-discrepancy, gender nonconformity, minority stress) and psychosocial mediating processes (sexual objectification, sociocultural processes, online disinhibition).

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Dowds J. What do young people think about eating disorders and prevention programmes? Implications for partnerships between health, education and informal youth agencies. JPMH. 2010;9:30–41. doi: 10.5042/jpmh.2010.0701.

Fardouly J., Vartanian L.R. Negative comparisons about one’s appearance mediate the relationship between Facebook usage and body image concerns. Body Image. 2015;12:82–88. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2014.10.004.

Bailey A.P., Parker A.G., Colautti L.A., Hart L.M., Liu P., Hetrick S.E. Mapping the evidence for the prevention and treatment of eating disorders in young people. J. Eat. Disord. 2014;2:5. doi: 10.1186/2050-2974-2-5.

Telch C.F., Pratt E.M., Niego S.H. Obese women with binge eating disorder define the term binge. Int. J. Eat. Disord. 1997

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