Body Image Research

‘Enhancing social media literacy to decrease body dissatisfaction: A randomised controlled trial’

Victorian University, VIC
Awarded 2018

“Body dissatisfaction is a serious health issue that can lead to other problems including depression and eating disorders. In our research, we want to understand these problems so that we can develop programs that will be helpful to treat and prevent body dissatisfaction and related problems.”

Researcher Profile

Dr Siân McLean, Lecturer in Psychology at Victoria University, is a body image researcher whose interests focus on understanding factors that create risk for or protect against body dissatisfaction. Her work specifically looks at how viewing and using social media leads to body dissatisfaction and other problematic outcomes, and the best way to prevent these negative effects. This has led to development of social media literacy interventions to enhance critical thinking about social media to reduce its influence on body image.

Dr McLean’s research has been recognised nationally and internationally and she received the ANZAED 2016 Peter Beumont Young Investigator award.

Project Summary

Social media use by young Australians is very common. Young people use social media almost constantly to stay in touch with friends, share experiences, and get involved with interests and social justice causes. Although these types of activities are positive, using social media also leads to negative outcomes including body dissatisfaction, eating problems, and depressed mood.

Social media literacy is a new approach to helping prevent these negative effects of using social media. This involves being able to think critically about social media content, including thinking about reasons for posting particular content, whether or not social media posts reflect real life or only a slice of the “best bits”, and how much social media can influence people’s attitudes and behaviours.

This project aims to find out if there are benefits for young men and women’s body dissatisfaction, eating problems, and mood, from taking part in a social media literacy program, Reel2Real. The Reel2Real program is web-based and is designed to help young people to become more social media literate, that is, to think more critically about social media.

The project will invite 240 young men and women to take part. Half of them will use Reel2Real straight away, and half will wait for three months before accessing the program. We will compare how being involved in the program improves people’s body dissatisfaction, eating problems, and mood, with those who are yet to receive Reel2Real. We will also see if the positive effects last over three months.

Co-Investigators: A/Prof Rachel Rodgers & Prof Susan Paxton