At the click of a button, a plethora of social-media apps appear on the screen of your phone, luring you in like the symphony of an ice-cream truck wielding its magic on a sweaty five-year-old kid running around in the summer. The influence of social media is ever expanding, driving changes in many aspects of today’s society. Just take a moment to recall the last time you opened one of these apps.
You’ll think of scrolling through a myriad of posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, calling your long-distance friends on WeChat and WhatsApp. The way social media so effortlessly links us to the rest of the world and satisfies our desires for human connection leaves no wonder as to why we’re so drawn to these apps – we just can’t stop going back to them.
If you’ve been noticing all those “fitspo”, or fitness inspiration, pages trending, you might have an insight into how social media influences our health and weight-loss journeys. Multiple studies have indicated that being part of a social-media group and receiving weight-loss intervention information there have improved the weight-loss results of participants.
Studies have been done on big platforms like Facebook, where participants were put in either an experimental group (placed in a Facebook weight-loss group and received weight-loss intervention information), a pamphlet group (received weight-loss information in pamphlets) or a control group. The results show that participants in the experimental group generally lost more weight than those in the control group. In the Facebook study, the participants in the experimental group initially lost an average of 4.8% body weight compared to just 1.5% for the control group. Other successful trials include private weight-loss groups on Twitter that let friends challenge each other to lose weight and blog about their weight loss.
Joining such a group means you can receive weight-loss information more often, giving you a foundation for better choices. They’re also a source of social support, which is just like having a bunch of friends going on a diet together, preparing meals and working out with you. In reality, aren’t your friends the ones who stuff pizza in their mouths and pity you for your salad? Positive social support is a major part of motivation for physical activity, along with the joy associated with these activities.
So if you’re on a weight-loss journey, or even just thinking about it, consider joining a social-media group – or creating one. It can help you to keep track of your goals and find people who support you. Even better, it’s much more convenient and cost effective than traditional weight-loss intervention programmes. At the same time, be careful about what you’re getting yourself into. Make sure the group you join is a legitimate support group. Positive support can make an impact on weight-loss results, but, on the other hand, social media may cause a negative body image and increased attention on the physical appearances of others.