In a new study published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., experts have found that men are mostly portrayed on Instagram as having muscular and lean bodies. Even though this depiction of men has the potential to encourage exercise and other healthy behaviors, it is more likely to cause body dissatisfaction among men.
“Body dissatisfaction is associated with a plethora of health consequences,” wrote the study authors. “Social media has been named as one contributing factor for male body dissatisfaction.”
“Up until now, women have been the focus of body image-related social media studies.”
The researchers analyzed 1,000 relevant Instagram posts to investigate how the male body is portrayed on Instagram and how users respond to the images.
Most of the men featured in the Instagram posts were lean and muscular, while only a small percentage of posts showed men with high body fat or low muscle content.
The most common posts displayed men with very little body fat, and exercise was the most frequently shown behavior.
It is often assumed that men are primarily driven by muscularity, but the results of this study “emphasize body fat being just as important for men,” said the researchers.
The experts found that the number of likes and comments was strongly linked to body composition. As body fat levels dropped and levels of muscularity rose, the responses increased.
“Nowadays, men are faced with sociocultural influences giving rise to the desire for a muscular and lean body, resulting in men facing body dissatisfaction, which is associated with health consequences such as depression and eating pathology,” wrote the study authors.
“One of the sociocultural influences playing a role in the development of body dissatisfaction is ideal body type portrayal on media platforms. Men face a standard emphasizing muscularity and leanness in both traditional and social media.”
Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold is president of the Virtual Reality Medical Center and a clinical psychologist. She explained that, based on the social cognitive theory, body image pictures on Instagram may have a positive impact if the portrayals lead men to lead more healthy lifestyles.
“On the negative side, the skewed images may lead to male body dissatisfaction, depression, and eating disorders. We can use this knowledge to educate our patients about the false sense of reality often portrayed on social media,” said Dr. Wiederhold.
The study is published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.