The Relationship between Social Networking Site Use and the Internalization of a Thin Ideal in Females: A Meta-Analytic Review

John Mingoia, Amanda Hutchinson, Carlene Wilson, David Gleaves

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    51 Citations (Scopus)


    Previous research has indicated that exposure to traditional media (i.e., television, film, and print) predicts the likelihood of internalization of a thin ideal; however, the relationship between exposure to internet-based social media on internalization of this ideal remains less understood. Social media differ from traditional forms of media by allowing users to create and upload their own content that is then subject to feedback from other users. This meta-analysis examined the association linking the use of social networking sites (SNSs) and the internalization of a thin ideal in females. Systematic searches were performed in the databases: PsychINFO, PubMed, Web of Science, Communication and Mass Media Complete, and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Six studies were included in the meta-analysis that yielded 10 independent effect sizes and a total of 1,829 female participants ranging in age from 10 to 46 years. We found a positive association between extent of use of SNSs and extent of internalization of a thin ideal with a small to moderate effect size (r = 0.18). The positive effect indicated that more use of SNSs was associated with significantly higher internalization of a thin ideal. A comparison was also made between study outcomes measuring broad use of SNSs and outcomes measuring SNS use solely as a function of specific appearance-related features (e.g., posting or viewing photographs). The use of appearance-related features had a stronger relationship with the internalization of a thin ideal than broad use of SNSs. The finding suggests that the ability to interact with appearance-related features online and be an active participant in media creation is associated with body image disturbance. Future research should aim to explore the way SNS users interact with the media posted online and the relationship linking the use of specific appearance features and body image disturbance.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1351
    Number of pages10
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Issue numberAUG
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2017


    • Body image
    • Eating disorders
    • Facebook
    • Internalization
    • Social networking


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