- A recent study shows that following body-positive or appearance-neutral Facebook pages can improve young women's body image.
- Body-positive content deemphasizes unattainable societal beauty ideals while appearance-neutral content uses fewer people in its images.
- This research demonstrates it can take just two weeks of a “micro” intervention to feel relief from body dislike and body comparison.
We know that social media use can negatively impact its users—for example, tanking their body image and fueling appearance comparisons. Nonetheless, these platforms are here to stay. So, we need doable antidotes to common problems that social media causes or magnifies. Luckily, a recent study provides simple, legitimate help.
“Can following body-positive or appearance-neutral Facebook pages improve young women's body image and mood? Testing novel social media micro-interventions” was published online ahead of print in January 2023. Authors Fardouly and colleagues chose Facebook for the research’s social networking platform. (But no matter what platform you use, focus on the concepts behind what you’re about to read.)
In the study, 159 young women either followed a body-positive Facebook group, followed an appearance-neutral Facebook group, or used Facebook as they usually would. Strategic content was posted in the body-positive and appearance-neutral groups three times a day for a brief period.
Before we proceed further, let’s clarify “body positive” and “appearance neutral,” since there are mixed messages online.
Defining "Body Positive" and "Appearance Neutral"
Here, "body positivity" might not refer to what you’re used to seeing as such (e.g., objectified or sexualized images). Fardouly and associates keep to more historical roots in the fat-acceptance movement. They describe body positivity as a "movement that aims to challenge narrow and unattainable societal beauty ideals, promote acceptance and love for all bodies, and encourage a focus on function and health rather than appearance.”
In the study, "appearance neutral" refers to images unrelated to appearance. Those might include travel, nature, kitties, and puppies. If images of people were included in appearance-neutral content, the people were not the focus.
Results After 14 Days
The research participants’ body dissatisfaction and drive for appearance comparison were measured pre-experiment, two weeks into it, and then again at four weeks. Promising findings follow:
- People who viewed as few as one body-positive post a day for 14 days showed decreased body dissatisfaction and appearance comparison tendencies.
- Similar results occurred with the appearance-neutral posts.
It can take just two weeks of a “micro” intervention to potentially feel some relief from body dislike and body comparison. That’s doable for many of us. Further, this study complements prior research on similar topics.
Bottom Line and Challenge
There’s hope if you struggle with body dissatisfaction and spend time on social media. Body-positive content may help balance out the otherwise body-negative, compare-yourself-mercilessly-to-others content we experience daily on social media, on any platform. Fardouly and associates seem to have found one easy, doable mode that provides help. The rest is on us.
How about this challenge for anyone reading this post?
- Go to one social media platform that you view regularly.
- Add three body-positive or appearance-neutral accounts.
- Then, in two weeks, notice if you feel any less body hate or drive for social comparison, and share your experience with someone.
Who knows? Maybe this can start a new social media trend: adding content that helps people feel better about themselves.
Fardouly, J., Slater, A., Parnell, J., & Diedrichs, P. C. (2023). Can following body positive or appearance neutral Facebook pages improve young women's body image and mood? Testing novel social media micro-interventions. Body image, 44, 136–147. Advance online publication.