Title

The Effects of Body Ideal Profile Pictures and Friends' Comments on Social Network Site Users' Body Image: A SIDE Model Approach

Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Media and Communication

First Advisor

Sung-Yeon Park, PhD

Second Advisor

Gary Heba, PhD

Third Advisor

Srinivas Melkote, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Gi Woong Yun, PhD (Committee Member)

Abstract

Although a substantial body of research has explored the effects of exposure to idealized images in traditional media on one's body image, there is relatively little systematic investigation of the body ideal on social network sites (SNSs). In an attempt to further body image research, this study sought to explore the effects of exposure to Facebook body ideal profile pictures and body ideal comments on users' body image. In addition, the social identity model of deindividuation effects (SIDE) was used to explore Facebook users' adherence to a body ideal norm, as well as the role of group identification in this process. The SIDE model has been widely used to investigate group communication in CMC contexts, yet had not been used in SNS research prior to this study.

To address this issue, a pre-test post-test 2 x 2 X 2 between-group web-based experimental design was used on a mock Facebook status page. The design was comprised of body ideal profile pictures (body ideal vs. no body), body ideal comments (pro-ideal vs. anti-ideal), and group identification (high vs. low). A total of 501 participants completed the web-based experiment and passed all manipulation checks. Participants viewed pictures and comments on the Facebook status page and were able to leave their own comment before moving on to the post-test instrument.

Results demonstrated no significant main effects for either profile pictures or comments on participants' body image. However, those with low predispositional body satisfaction displayed significantly lower body satisfaction after viewing body ideal images than those with relatively higher predispositional body satisfaction. In addition, participants' comments were overwhelmingly in line with the body ideal norm. But, in support of the SIDE model, the group norm did significantly affect participants' behavior. Those exposed to anti-ideal comments were almost three times more likely to make anti-ideal comments than those exposed to pro-ideal comments. In contrast to recent SIDE model research, group identification played no role in either participants' adherence to the norm or in the relationship between exposure to body ideal pictures and comments on participants' body image. It was speculated that the CMC context of SNSs may have played a role in the lack of significant effects of group identification. Altogether, the findings from this study demonstrated the importance of continued body image research in SNSs as well as the applicability of the SIDE model in this newer CMC context. In addition, the findings illuminated potential of further research on body image that is guided by the SIDE model. Finally, the successful implantation of a novel web-based experimental design shows promise for similar research in future communication inquiries.