Date of Award

10-5-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Jarry, Josée

Keywords

body image, fitspiration, Instagram, social comparison, social networking sites, thinspiration

Abstract

Use of social networking sites (SNSs) are ubiquitous among youth and are more popular among this age group than mass media sources and may act as a potent influence on women’s body satisfaction. Two types of content shared on SNSs that may be particularly detrimental to women’s body image are thinspiration and fitspiration. Thinspiration refers to content that aims to inspire thinness at all costs. Fitspiration promotes fitness and strength and denounces thinness, but critics have highlighted that fitspiration also features very thin women and argue that fitspiration is effectively thinspiration with added demands. Female undergraduates (N = 340) were randomly assigned to view either thinspiration, fitspiration, or travel images from Instagram and reported on a variety of trait and state body image and mental health variables. Those who viewed fitspiration or thinspiration reported lower body satisfaction and appearance self-esteem but not greater negative affect than did those who viewed travel images. As expected, the effects of fitspiration and thinspiration on body satisfaction and of fitspiration on appearance self-esteem were mediated by appearance comparison. Although the effects on the outcome variables were equivalent, those who viewed fitspiration reported engaging in appearance comparisons to a greater extent than did those who viewed thinspiration. Appearance investment and the tendency to compare one’s body to others may moderate the effects of these images, the role of each are discussed. Overall, the present findings fit within the broader social attitudes, which promote body positivity and eschew the pursuit of thinness, and highlight the need to consider social attitudes in the development of media literacy programs.

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