Social media is here to stay, and with it comes the never-ending waves of daily activities captured by the swipe of a button. That red notification alert on Facebook has become synonymous with new information while apps like Instagram and Snapchat let people know of the seemingly perfect lives their peers are enjoying. According to a new study published in the Health Communication journal, those who post about their fitness regimen may influence the health of their friends for better or worse.
The researchers noted that the more exercise-related posts a person sees on social media, the more concerned they feel about their image. Stephen Rains, associate professor at the University of Arizona and a co-author of the study, believes that the impact would either make people feel worse about themselves or it could motivate them into getting in shape.
To reach this conclusion, researchers asked 232 participants to log into their preferred social media site and look at the past 30 days worth of posts from their friends. During the course of the experiment, the participants had to count how many of the posts, containing photos or text, depicted their friends exercising.
Researchers did not focus on a specific type of exercise for the study. For this experiment, exercise was broadly defined as any physical activity that maintained fitness and health. Thus, anything from going to the gym to walking in the park was taken into account.
At the end of the 30-day activity, the participants had to choose three of their social media peers who had the highest output of exercise-related posts. They were then asked how they perceived themselves and their bodies after the activity. In addition, participants also had to answer questionnaires which measured the level of concern about their weight, and their general attitudes about exercise. Researchers were also interested in the participants’ tendency to make either upward or downward social comparisons.
Based on the results, the researchers said that there is a real link between social media and health.
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