THE EFFECTS OF SOCIAL MEDIA SHARING ON PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ADHERENCE

Melanie Brucks , Matthias Mehl

THE EFFECTS OF SOCIAL MEDIA SHARING ON PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ADHERENCE

Social media have fundamentally changed how people communicate and connect with others, yet little is known about the impact social networking can have on health and health behavior. This study examined the potential of social media to act as a catalyzer for health behavior change. Specifically, the study tested the feasibility of using Facebook as an intervention tool to facilitate adherence to an exercise goal. For a period of six weeks, participants documented their exercise by “checking in” to Facebook either (a) publicly (i.e. letting all of their Facebook friends know they are attending the Rec Sport Center) or (b) privately via a customized check-in which only the investigators could see. During the intervention period, participants completed weekly physical activity surveys. At the end of the six weeks, Campus Recreation attendance records were collected as objective verification of the Facebook check-ins. Further, participants’ Facebook “activity logs” were downloaded to measure protocol adherence and Facebook usage. We hypothesized that participants who publicly shared their exercise events on Facebook would identify with exercising more and consequently be more active compared to participants that shared their physical activity with only the investigators. The final sample consisted of 132 participants and debriefing interviews preliminary analyses suggest that participants responded well to the intervention and evidenced good protocol compliance. Upon study completion, the final analyses will test (1) whether publicly sharing exercise events on Facebook increased physical activity, (2) whether the difference in physical activity between groups was caused by an increased identification with exercise in the public condition, and (3) whether social feedback, previous Facebook (e.g., check-in app) usage, and gender serve as moderators of the relationship between publicly posting exercise events and physical activity. This study is the first to explore the extent to which Facebook, and specifically its check-in app, can be used for health behavior change. This work was supported in part by funding from the UA Provost's Office

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