A question of interest is whether online social networks are effective in promoting behavioral changes and weight loss. The purpose of this paper is to examine the contagion effect of an online buddy network on individuals’ self-monitoring behavior.
This study collects data from an online weight-loss community and constructs an online buddy network. This study compares the effects of the network structure of the buddy network and the actor attributes when predicting self-monitoring performance by employing the auto-logistic actor attribute models.
This study confirms the contagion effect on weigh-in behavior in the online buddy network. The contagion effect is significantly predictive when controlling for actor attribute and other network structure effects.
There is limited evidence that one’s weight-related behavior can be affected by online social contacts. This study contributes to the literature on peer influence on health by examining the contagion effect on weight-related behavior between online buddies. The findings can assist in designing peer-based interventions to harness influence from online social contacts for weight loss.
The authors sincerely appreciate the editors and anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. This research is supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos 71601034, 71601100, 71771040), the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Grant Nos 2016M600210, 2018M631345) and the General Program of Humanities and Social Sciences of Liaoning Provincial Education Department (Grant No. LN2016YB007).
Song, X., Jin, J., Liu, Y.-H. and Yan, X. (2020), "Lose your weight with online buddies: behavioral contagion in an online weight-loss community", Information Technology & People, Vol. 33 No. 1, pp. 22-36. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-11-2018-0525
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