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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Article One: The mass marketing of disordered eating and Eating Disorders: The social psychology of women, thinness and culture

1. One of the key research questions of the study described in the article is: What are the benefits to certain social industries in promoting a cultural idea that thinness equals success? Another research question is: How do certain social industries market this idea through advertisement and the use of media outlets so that it has made the impact of creating weight concerns a norm across a large percentage of the population of the United States of America?

2. The key findings of this study were that young women learn from media outlets (magazines, advertisements, etc.) that the ideal weight to be is significantly less than what is considered healthy by the world of professional medicine. They also found that Eating Behaviours can be seen as social and economic issues as well as psychological factors. As well, they found that eating disorders are culturally-induced diseases that are promoted by institutions that profit from mass media's promotion of the ideal body type. Through exploring four social psychological theories (cultivation theory, uses and gratifications theory, social comparison theory and objectification theory), they found that possible solutions to this issue are a “re-visioning of femininity, social activism, education, and media literacy”.

Article Two: Concurrent and prospective analyses of peer, television and social media influences on body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms and life satisfaction in adolescent girls

1. One of the key research questions of the study described in the article is: What are the differential influences of peer and media effects on body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms in girls?

2. The key findings of this study are that the degree to which media influences body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms in adolescent girls can be less than the influence of peers on the same issue. As well, it finds that peer competition, rather than media, is the most prominent factor in body dissatisfaction in teenage girls. On the other hand, it also finds that social media use can provide outlets for this competition between peers, and indirectly influences negative body perception. Finally, it touches on media viewers not being passive victims, but as those who do this to themselves, as they chose what media they consume.

Article Three: Facebook use and disordered eating in college-aged women

1. One of the key research questions of the study described in the article is: What is the role of social media use in fostering disordered eating behaviour? As well, another research question is: Do college-aged females who use Facebook and have more friends, use it more and more often daily have more disordered eating behaviour?

2. The key findings of this study were that “Facebook intensity” (e.g., the amount of time spent on Facebook, number of Facebook friends, and the integration of Facebook into daily life), online physical appearance comparison, and online “fat talk” (e.g., negative talk about body size and shape while emphasizing a societal ideal towards thinness) were associated with eating disorders. However, it was concluded that college-aged women who endorsed greater Facebook intensity were less likely to have an eating disorder when the comparison between online physical appearance is accounted for, but can carry both risks and benefits depending on the situation. If one evaluates oneself negatively in comparison to one's Facebook friends, then there was a significantly higher chance that disordered eating would occur. Overall, the study found that the three variables of Facebook Intensity, online fat talk and online physical appearance comparison did not have a significant influence on disordered eating habits on their own, but when all three factors are considered when looking at disordered eating, it had a unique impact on disordered eating.

Part C – Comparing Articles

1. The three research articles that were chosen explore the common theme of social media and their relationship with eating disorders within North America. The research questions for article one and three both explore the role that media plays in fostering the idea that thinness is the ultimate goal. For example, Walker et al. stated in the conclusion of the study that, “Facebook intensity was associated with increased online physical appearance comparison, which in turn was associated with greater disordered eating” (Walker et al., 2015, p. 7-8), while Hesse-Biber et al. said that “social comparisons made regarding physical appearance… caused decreased or negative self-perception of attractiveness and comparison to universal markers (such as media images) create more pressure to conform to idealized standards” (Hesse-Biber et al., 2006, p. 217). This shows that both articles explore the fact that comparisons made between oneself and images portrayed on media can result in lower self-esteem about their own looks, and this pressure can build into the symptoms of disordered eating. The research questions for article one, two and three all explore the idea of media effects on body dissatisfaction, and how peer and societal influence is related to this. For example, Ferguson et al. stated that “body dissatisfaction is a direct result of interfemale competition for mates. Such competition is expected to be higher in cultures in which females have more free choice in selecting mates … where abundant food focuses on thinness as a signal of health … thus explaining some of the observed cultural differences in thin ideals and body dissatisfaction” (Ferguson et al., 2014, p.3). Relating to this, the other two articles say, “The more dissatisfied one is with their body prior to viewing images of the media's portrayal of the ideal woman, the more dissatisfied they become with their weight as images are presented to them” (Hesse-Biber et al., 2006, p. 217), and that “Fat talk has become a social norm, a bid for reassurance, and even a bonding activity among young women. Fat talk not only reflects body dissatisfaction, but can intensify disordered behaviours” (Walker et al., 2015, p. 3). These show that all of the articles focus on how norms, often imposed by the media, and peer involvement can heighten body dissatisfaction, and lead to one developing an eating disorder.

2. The three research articles chosen had similar findings that eating disorders can be culturally-induced diseases that can be influenced by media and peer pressures. These three articles all discussed how seeing the pictures posted on social media, whether they are people we know intimately, or those we do not, can impact one's view of themselves and is more likely to occur when prior dissatisfaction with the way you look is present. For example, Walker et al. states that “online physical appearance comparison with Facebook friends and distinct peers was associated with greater body image concerns and offline physical appearance comparison was associated with greater disordered eating” (Walker et al., 2015, p.2). Similarly, Ferguson et al. says, “peer influences are likely to have a greater influence on body dissatisfaction than media images. This is because viewers of media are able to distinguish between fictional media and real-life competition” (Ferguson et al., 2014, p.3). Finally, Hesse-Biber et al. states that “Uses and gratifications theory suggests that while the frequency and content of mass media images dos not have an influence, it is mediated by women's sense of their own body image efficacy. If they feel good about their bodies, they may not be impacted as much by the thinness message” (Hesse-Biber et al., 2006, p. 217). These comparisons show that all three articles are aware that media does not act alone in influencing eating habits and body image issues, but depends on the individual's active role when consuming media and whether they value virtual or real social views more.

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