Media use, body image, and disordered eating

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Our contemporary Western society abundantly surrounds us with beauty ideals and perfect bodies. Both traditional media, like magazines and television, and newer, digital media technologies, like social media sites play a prominent role in conveying body ideals and setting aesthetic standards. Although standards of what is considered an ideal body seem to vary over time and cross-culturally, ideal body characteristics of being thin and slender for women and muscular for men generally prevail in a Western context. Various theories like sociocultural theory clarify media's role in impacting media users' body image and eating patterns. Moreover, internalization of body ideals and appearance-based social comparison with media figures function as important underlying processes in guiding this impact. Ample empirical evidence has confirmed the detrimental impact of media-induced ideal body imagery on receivers' body image, such as experiencing body dissatisfaction, distorted body perceptions, and disordered eating. However, some inconsistencies in findings in the realm of media-induced body perceptions research also exist: some empirical studies and theoretical perspectives point at more positive body image related effects of media use. For example, the technical affordances and possibilities of social media can be used to enhance and reinforce one's own appearance. Lastly, scholars call to investigate the interplay of ideal body portrayals and their direct verbal context in impacting media users' body image perceptions. That is, the impact of ideal body portrayals may be dependent on how the imagery is contextualized by, for example, verbal references and peer feedback, serving as a strategy to negotiate the effects from idealized body exposure.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe International Encyclopedia of Media Psychology
EditorsJan van den Bulck
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781119011071
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameWiley Blackwell-ICA international encyclopedias of communication


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