Indexed on: 12 Sep '12Published on: 12 Sep '12Published in: Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking
Obesity is a challenging problem affecting almost half of college students. To solve this complex health problem, innovative approaches must be utilized. Over 94 percent of college students maintain a Facebook profile, providing them a venue to publicly disclose current fitness behaviors. Displayed advertisements on Facebook are tailored to profile content and may influence college students' fitness efforts. Facebook may be an innovative venue for improving college students' fitness behaviors. The purpose of this project was to determine (a) how and to what extent college students are discussing fitness on Facebook, and (b) how user-generated fitness information is linked to advertisements for fitness products and advice. First, public Facebook profiles of individual college students were evaluated for displayed fitness references based on 10 fitness behavior categories. Inter-rator reliability between two coders was 91.18 percent. Second, 10 fitness status updates were generated and posted by a researcher on a Facebook profile; the first 40 linked advertisements to these statements were examined. Advertisements were categorized and then examined for relevance to the college population. A total of 57 individual profiles were examined; owners had an average age of 18.3 years (SD=0.51), and 36.8 percent were women. About 71.9 percent of profiles referenced one or more fitness behavior; 97.6 percent referenced exercise, 4.9 percent dieting, and 4.9 percent unhealthy eating. Among the first 40 ads linked to generated status updates, 40.3 percent were fitness related. Most advertisements were for charity runs (30.4 percent), fitness apparel (24.2 percent), or fad diets (9.9 percent). Students referred both healthy and unhealthy fitness behaviors on their Facebook profiles, and these trigger the display of fitness-related advertisements of which few appear applicable. A community- or university-based intervention could be designed and implemented to provide relevant and tailored information to students on Facebook.