Using Psychosocial Variables and Social Media Use to Predict Exercise Behaviors and Engagement in Impression Management in Women


  • Caitlyn Hauff University of South Alabama
  • Christy Greenleaf University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


body image, social media, impression management, impression construction, impression motivation, exercise


Posting on social media has become a norm and an everyday expectation, encouraging users to post photos and captions that depict a highlight reel of their everyday experiences. Many women utilize social media to display their exercise behaviors and personas, yet little is understood about what variables might predict this behavior. The purpose of this study was to use a re-conceptualized version of Perloff’s (2014) Transactional model of social media and body image concerns to explore how psychosocial factors in combination with social media engagement may predict impression management and exercise behaviors in women. Participants (N = 605) included recreationally active women who actively engaged in social media use. Results from three hierarchical multiple regressions revealed that: (1) social media use specific to health/exercise-related content, body/exercise comparisons, physical appearance comparisons, negative affect, thin-ideal internalization, weight, and positive affect all are significant in predicting exercise behaviors; (2) contingent self-esteem, reasons for exercise, social media use, and social physique anxiety significantly predict impression motivation and impression construction. This study provides support for the re-conceptualized model of social media, body image concerns, impression management, and exercise behaviors.


Anixiadis, F., Wertheim, E. H., Rodgers, R., & Caruana, B. (2019). Effects of thin-ideal instagram images: The roles of appearance comparisons, internalization of the thin ideal and critical media processing. Body Image, 31, 181-190.

Blascovich, Jim & Joseph Tomaka. (1993). Measures of self-esteem. In J.P. Robinson, P.R. Shaver, & L.S. Wrightsman (Eds.), Measures of Personality and Social Psychological Attitudes. (115-160). Third Edition. Institute for Social Research.

Brunet, J. & Sabiston, C. (2009). Social physique anxiety and physical activity: A self- determination theory perspective. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10, 329-335. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2008.11.002

Campbell, A., & Hausenblas, H. A. (2009). Effects of exercise interventions on body image: A meta-analysis. Journal of Health Psychology, 14, 780–793. PMID: 19687115 doi: 10.1177/1359105309338977

Carpenter, C. (2012). Narcissism on Facebook: Self-promotional and anti-social behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 482-486.

Cash, T., Novy, P., & Grant, J. (1994). Why do women exercise? Factor analysis and further validation of the Reasons for Exercise Inventory. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 78, 539 544. PMID: 8022678 doi: 10.2466/pms.1994.78.2.539

Chambliss, H., Finley, C. & Blair, S. (2004). Attitudes towards obese individuals amount exercise science students. Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, 36(3) 468-474. PMID: 15076789 doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000117115.94062.e4

Clerkin, E., Smith, A., & Hames, J. (2013). The interpersonal effects of Facebook reassurance seeking. Journal of Affective Disorders, 151(2), 525-530.

Compiet, K. (2013). Narcissism on Facebook: Appearance and evaluation of narcissistic Facebook behavior. Unpublished manuscript, Graduate School of Communication, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Conroy, D., Motl, R., & Hall. E. (1998). Factorial validity of the Self-Presentation in Exercise Questionnaire. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 10, S28.

Conroy, D., Motl, R., & Hall, E. (2000). Progress toward construct validation of the Self Presentation in Exercise Questionnaire (SPEQ). Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 22, 21-38.

Dittmar, H. & Howard, S. (2004). Thin-ideal internalization and social comparison tendency as moderators of media models’ impact on women’s body-focused anxiety. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23(6), 768-791.

Dobson, C., Goudy, W., Keith, P., & Powers, E. (1979). Further analysis of Rosenberg’s Self- esteem Scale. Psychological Reports, 44, 639-641.

Eklund, R. & Crawford, S. (1994). Active women, social physique anxiety, and exercise. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 16(4), 431-448.

Fardouly, J., & Vartanian, L. R. (2015). Negative comparisons about one's appearance mediate the relationship between Facebook usage and body image concerns. Body Image, 12, 82- 88.

Fitzsimmons-Craft, E. E., Bardone-Cone, A. M., Bulik, C. M., Wonderlich, S. A., Crosby, R. D., & Engel, S. G. (2014). Examining an elaborated sociocultural model of disordered eating among college women: The roles of social comparison and body surveillance. Body Image, 11(4), 488-500. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2014.07.012

Fitzsimmons-Craft, E. E., Bardone-Cone, A. M., & Harney, M. B. (2012). Development and validation of the Body, Eating, and Exercise Comparison Orientation Measure (BEECOM) among college women. Body Image, 9(4), 476–487. PMID: 22902098 doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2012.07.007

Fleming, J. & Courtney, B. (1984). The dimensionality of self-esteem: II Hierarchical facet

model for revised measurement scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46(2), 404-421.

Franzoi, S. (1995). The body-as-object versus the body-as-process: Gender differences and gender considerations. Sex Roles, 33(5/6), 417–437.

Frederick, C.J., & Shaw, S.M. (1995). Body image as a leisure constraint: Examining the experience of aerobic exercise classes for young women. Leisure Sciences, 17(2), 57-73.

Godin, G. & Shepard, R. (1985). A simple method to access exercise behavior in the community. Canadian Journal of Applied Sport Science, 10(3), 141-146. PMID: 4053261

Gonzales, A. L., & Hancock, J. T. (2011). Mirror, mirror on my Facebook wall: Effects of exposure to Facebook on self-esteem. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(1-2), 79-83.

Grabe, S., Ward, L., Hyde, J. (2008). The role of the media in body image concerns among women: A meta-analysis of experimental and correlational studies. Psychological Bulletin 134(3), 460-476. PMID: 18444705 doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.134.3.460

Grammage, K., Hall, C., Prapavessis, H., Maddison, R., Haase, A., & Martin, K., (2004). Re- examination of the factor structure and composition of the Self-Presentation in Exercise Questionnaire (SPEQ). Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 16(1), 82-91.

Greenleaf, C. (2005). Self-objectification among physically active women. Sex Roles, 52(1/2), 51-62. doi: 10.1007/s11199-005-1193-8

Hampton, K., Goulet, L., Rainie, L., & Purcell, K. (2011). Social networking sites and our lives. Pew Research Center’s Internet and Life Project, 8-11.

Hausenblas, H., Brewer, B., & Van Raalte, J. (2004). Self-presentation and exercise. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 16(1), 3-18.

Hausenblas, H. A., & Fallon, E. A. (2006). Exercise and body image: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Health, 21(1), 33–47.

Holland, G. & Tiggemann, M. (2016). “Strong beats skinny every time”: Disordered eating and compulsive exercise in women who post fitspiration on Instagram. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 50(1), 76-79. PMID: 27302867 doi: 10.1002/eat.22559

Homan, K. & Tylka, T. (2014). Appearance-based exercise motivation moderates the relationship between exercise frequency and positive body image. Body Image, 11(2), 101-108. PMID: 24529336 doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2014.01.003

Jacobs, D., Ainsworth, B., Hartman, T., & Leon, A. (1993). A simultaneous evaluation of 10 commonly used physical activity questionnaires. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 25, 81-91. doi:10.1249/00005768-199301000-00012

Kanning, M. & Schlicht, W. (2010). Be active and become healthy: An ecological momentary assessment of physical activity and mood. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 32(2), 253-261. PMID: 20479481 doi: 10.1123/jsep.32.2.253

Kernis, M. (2003). Toward a conceptualization of optimal self‐esteem. Psychology Inquiry, 14(1), 1–26.

Kilpatrick, M., Hebert, E., & Bartholomew, J. (2005). College students' motivation for physical activity: Differentiating men's and women's motives for sport participation and exercise. Journal of American College Health, 54(2), 87-94. PMID: 16255320 doi: 10.3200/JACH.54.2.87-94

Kim, J., & Lee, J. E. R. (2011). The Facebook paths to happiness: Effects of the number of Facebook friends and self-presentation on subjective well-being. CyberPsychology, behavior, and social networking, 14(6), 359-364. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0374

Lantz, C. & Hardy, C. (1997). Social physique anxiety and perceived exercise behavior. Journal of Sport Behavior, 20(1), 83-94.

Leary, M. & Kowalski, R. (1990). Impression management: A literature review and two component model. Psychological Bulletin, 107(1), 34-47. 2909.107.1.34

LePage, M. L., & Crowther, J. H. (2010). The effects of exercise on body satisfaction and affect. Body Image, 7(2), 124-130.

Liardi, V., Gammage, K., Deck, S., & Hall, C. (2022). Exercise identity and its relation to self- presentation concerns in males and females. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 1-8.

Lindwall, M. & Martin Ginis, K. (2006). Moving towards a favorable image: The self- presentational benefits of exercise and physical activity. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 47(3), 209-217.

Martin, S. J., & Racine, S. E. (2017). Personality traits and appearance-ideal internalization: Differential associations with body dissatisfaction and compulsive exercise. Eating Behaviors ,27, 39-44.

Martin, K., Rejeski, W., Leary, M., McAuley, E., & Bane, S. (1997). Is the Social Physique Anxiety Scale really multidimensional? Conceptual and statistical arguments for a unidimensional model. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 19, 359 –367.

Martin, K., Sinden, A., & Fleming, J. (2000). Inactivity may be hazardous to your image: The effects of exercise participation on impression formation. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 22(4), 283-291.

Mehdizadeh, S. (2010). Self-presentation 2.0: Narcissism and self-esteem on Facebook. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 13(4), 357-364. PMID: 20712493 doi: 10.1089/cyber.2009.0257

Miura, A., & Yamashita, K. (2007). Psychological and social influences on blog writing: An online survey of blog authors in Japan. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 12(4), 1452-1471.

Motl, R. & Conroy, D. (2000). Validity and factorial invariance of the Social Physique Anxiety Scale. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 32(5), 1007-1017. PMID: 10795794 doi: 10.1097/00005768-200005000-00020

O’Hara, S. E., Cox, A. E., & Amorose, A. J. (2014). Emphasizing appearance versus health outcomes in exercise: The influence of the instructor and participants’ reasons for exercise. Body Image, 11(2), 109-118. PMID: 24439531 doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.12.004

Paradise, A. W., & Kernis, M. H. (1999). Development of the Contingent Self-esteem Scale. Unpublished data, University of Georgia.

Patrick, H., Neighbors, C., & Knee, C. R. (2004). Appearance-related social comparisons: The role of contingent self-esteem and self-perceptions of attractiveness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(4), 501-514. PMID: 15070478 doi: 10.1177/0146167203261891

Perloff, R. (2014). Social media effects on young women’s body image concerns: Theoretical perspectives and an agenda for research. Sex Roles, 71, 363-377.

Petrie, T., Tripp, M., & Harvey, P. (2002). Factorial and construct validity of the Body Parts Satisfaction Scale Revised: An examination of minority and nonminority women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26(3), 213-221. doi: 10.1111/1471-6402.00060

Prichard, I. & Tiggemann, M. (2008). Relations among exercise type, self-objectification, and body image in the fitness center environment: The role of reasons for exercise. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9(6), 855-866.

Puhl, R. & Wharton, C. (2007). Weight bias: A primer for the fitness industry. American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal, 11(3), 7-11. doi: 10.1249/01.FIT.0000269060.03465.ab

Reed J. & Buck S. (2009). The effect of regular aerobic exercise on positive-activated affect: A meta-analysis. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10(6), 581–594.

Reel, J. J., Greenleaf, C., Baker, W. K., Aragon, S., Bishop, D., Cachaper, C., & Reid, W. K. (2007). Relations of body concerns and exercise behavior: A meta-analysis. Psychological Reports, 101(3-Part 1), 927–942. doi: 10.2466/PR0.101.7.927-942

Robertson, N. & Vohora, R. (2008). Fitness vs. fatness: Implicit bias towards obesity among fitness professionals and regular exercisers. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9(4), 547- 557.

Rosenberg, Morris. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton University Press.

Rosenberg, M. (1979). Conceiving the self. Basic Books.

Rosenberg, M.. (1986). Conceiving the self. Krieger.

Sabiston, C. & Chandler, K., (2010). Effects of fitness advertising on weight and body shape dissatisfaction, social physique anxiety, and exercise motives in a sample of healthy weight females. Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research, 14(4), 165-180.

Salvatore, J., & Marecek, J. (2009). Gender in the gym: Evaluation concerns as barriers to women’s weight lifting. Sex Roles, 63(7-8), 556-567. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9800-8

Schaefer, L., Burke, N., Thompson, J., Dedrick, R., Heinberg, L., Calogero, R.,…Swami, V. (2015). Development and validation of the sociocultural attitudes toward appearance questionnaire-4 (SATAQ-4). Psychological Assessment, 27(1), 54-67. doi: 10.1037/a0037917

Schaefer, L. & Thompson, J. (2014). The development and validation of the Physical Appearance Comparison Scale-Revised (PACS-R). Eating Behaviors, 15(2), 209-217. PMID: 24854806 doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2014.01.001

Schlenker, B. (1980). Impression management: The self-concept, social identity, and interpersonal relations. Brooks/Cole.

Silber, E. & Tippett, J. (1965). Self-esteem: Clinical assessment and measurement validation. Psychological Reports, 16(3-Part 2), 1017–1071.

Silberstein, L., Striegel-Moore, R., Timko, C., & Rodin, J. (1988). Behavioral and psychological implications of body dissatisfaction: Do men and women differ? Sex Roles, 19 (3/4), 219- 232.

Simpson, C. & Mazzeo, S. (2017). Skinny is not enough: A content analysis of fitspiration on Pinterest. Health Communication, 32(5), 560-567. PMID: 27326747 doi: 10.1080/10410236.2016.1140273

Sinden, A., Martin Ginis, K., & Angove, J. (2003). Older women’s reactions to revealing and non-revealing exercise attire. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 11(4), 445–458.

Strelan, P., Mehaffey, S., & Tiggemann, M. (2003). Self-objectification and esteem in young women: The mediating role of reasons for exercise. Sex Roles, 48(1), 89-95.

Tamplin, N. C., McLean, S. A., & Paxton, S. J. (2018). Social media literacy protects against the negative impact of exposure to appearance ideal social media images in young adult women but not men. Body Image, 26, 29-37. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.05.003

Thompson, A. & Fleming, K. (2007). Social physique anxiety in female varsity athletes. In Advances in psychology research (pp. 61-74). Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Thompson, J.K., Heinberg, L., & Tantleff, S. (1991). The Physical Appearance Comparison Scale (PACS). The Behavior Therapist, 14, 174.

Thompson, J. & Stice , E. (2001). Thin-ideal internalization: Mounting evidence for a new risk factor for body image disturbance and eating pathology. American Psychological Society, 10(5), 181-183.

Tiggemann, M. & Miller, J. (2010). The Internet and adolescent girls’ weight satisfaction and drive for thinness. Sex Roles, 63(1-2), 79–90.

Tiggemann, M. & Zaccardo, M. (2015). “Exercise to be fit, not skinny”: The effect of fitspiration imagery on women’s body image. Body Image, 15, 61-67.

Tiggemann, M., & Zaccardo, M. (2016). ‘Strong is the new skinny’: A content analysis of# fitspiration images on Instagram. Journal of Health Psychology, 23(8), 1003-1011.

Vartanian, L., Wharton, C., & Green, E. (2012). Appearance vs. health motives for exercise and for weight loss. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13(3), 251-256.

Vinkers, C., Evers, C., Adriaanse, M., & de Ridder, D. (2012). Body esteem and eating disorder symptomology: The mediating role of appearance-motivated exercise in a non-clinical adult female sample. Eating Behaviors, 13(3), 214-218. PMID: 22664399 doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2012.02.006

Volek, J. S., VanHeest, J. L., & Forsythe, C. E. (2005). Diet and exercise for weight loss. Sports Medicine, 35(1), 1-9.

Walther, J. B. (1996). Computer-mediated communication impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Communication Research, 23(1), 3-43.

Wang, W., Zhou, K., Yu, Z., & Li, J. (2020). The Cost of Impression Management to Life Satisfaction: Sense of Control and Loneliness as Mediators. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 13, 407-417.

Wasylkiw, L. & Butler, N. (2015). Body talk among undergraduate women: Why conversations about exercise and weight loss differentially predict body appreciation. Journal of Health Psychology, 19(8), 1013-1024. PMID: 23682060 doi: 10.1177/1359105313483155

Watson, D., Clark, L., & Tellegen, A. (1985). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1063-1070.

Wouters, S., Duriez, B., Luyckx, K., Klimstra, T., Colpin, H., Soenens, B., & Verschueren, K. (2013). Depressive symptoms in university freshman: longitudinal relations with contingent self-esteem and level of self-esteem. Journal of Research and Personal, 47(4), 356-363.