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Medscape: Cutting Social Media to 1 Hour a Day Boosts Self-Image in Young Adults

By Lorraine L. Janeczko

From movies to billboards to magazine covers — media has been pushing impossible beauty ideals for decades. But the recent rise of social media brings that exposure to new levels, particularly for young people.

"Youth spend, on average, between 6 and 8 hours per day on screens, much of it on social media," says senior study author Gary S. Goldfield, PhD, senior scientist at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada. "Social media provides exposure to so many photo-edited pictures — including those of models, celebrities, and fitness instructors — that perpetuate an unattainable beauty standard that gets internalized by impressionable youth and young adults, leading to body dissatisfaction."

Plenty of research has linked frequent social media use with body image issues and even eating disorders. But crucial gaps in our knowledge remain, Goldfield says.

Much of that research "is correlational," Goldfield adds. And studies don't always focus on individuals who may be more vulnerable to social media's harmful effects, such as those with ruminative or brooding cognitive styles, affecting results.

And none have explored an obvious question: Can cutting down on social media use also diminish its potential harms?

Goldfield and his colleagues found an answer: Yes, it can.  

Limiting social media use to 1 hour per day helped older teens and young adults feel much better about their weight and appearance after only 3 weeks, according to the study in Psychology of Popular Media, a journal of the American Psychological Association.

The students who curbed their social media use saw significant improvements in their "appearance esteem" (from 2.95 to 3.15 points; P <.001) and their "weight esteem" (from 3.16 to 3.32 points; P < .001), whereas those who used social media freely saw no such changes (from 2.72 to 2.76; P = .992 and 3.01 to 3.02; P = .654, respectively). No gender differences between the groups were found.

The researchers are now studying possible reasons for these findings.

The changes in appearance scores "represent a small- to medium-effect size," says child psychologist Sara R. Gould, PhD, director of the Eating Disorders Center at Children's Mercy Kansas City in Missouri, who was not associated with the research. "As such, these are clinically meaningful results, particularly since they were achieved in only 3 weeks. Even small impacts can be added to other changes to create larger impacts or have the potential to grow over time."


Read the full article via Medscape

Children's Mercy Kansas City Eating Disorders Center