Social Media: to Harm or to Help By Keeley Meetze

Thinspiration is a mix between the words thin and inspiration. Its primary use is to make people aspire to be thin or have a low body weight (Marcus 2016.)

In their study of 101 thinspiration account owners and 102 travel account owners, they found that a shocking 17.5 percent of the women in charge of the fitspiration accounts were at risk for a clinical eating disorder as compared to the 4.3 percent in the travel account owner group. Both types of account owners were linked to compulsive exercise but the fitspiration account owners held the higher percentage (Holland and Tiggeman 2017.)

In his article, Social Media Effects on Young Women's Body Image Concerns: Theoretical Perspectives and an Agenda for Research, Richard Perloff talks about Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory and how it links social media exposure to body dissatisfaction, specifically in young girls and women. Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory stresses observational learning and imitation of what we see.

. In a study done by two graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined how media portrays women not only for other women, but for men as well. It showed that the media often pushes for thinness as a portrayal of health and is therefore desirable in women and a mate for men (Harrison and Cantor 1997.)

Dr. Scott Duggan and Dr. Donald McCreary, both therapists, conducted a study of both heterosexual and homosexual men detailing and collecting data on their social media use and their opinions on themselves. The study results were kind of as expected. They showed that there was a higher percentage of homosexual men that reported that they had body dissatisfaction than that of heterosexual men (Duggan and McCreary 2004.)

Dr. Sarah Kendal, Dr. Sue Kirk, Dr. Rebecca Elvey, and Dr. Steven Pryjmachuk all are lecturers at University of Huddersfield and University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. They all conducted a qualitative study observing over four hundred messages posted online. What they found was that youth who struggled with mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and/or eating disorders were finding support groups and even mentoring one another through social media.

Indeed, while social media can be a positive platform used to inspire rather than harm, social media clearly negatively effects both men and women body image through the reality verses the portrayed lifestyle of people who post body image things on social media and can have drastic outcomes such as eating disorders or unhealthy lifestyle habits

Works Cited

Duggan, Scott J., Ph.D., and Donald R. McCreary, Ph.D. "Body Image, Eating Disorders, and the Drive for Muscularity in Gay and Heterosexual Men." Journal of Homosexuality 47.3-4 (2004): 45-58. Web.

Harrison, Kristen, and Joanne Cantor. "The Relationship Between Media Consumption and Eating Disorders." Journal of Communication 47.1 (1997): 40-67. Web.

Holland, Grace, and Marika Tiggemann. "“Strong Beats Skinny Every Time”: Disordered Eating and Compulsive Exercise in Women Who Post Fitspiration on Instagram." International Journal of Eating Disorders 50.1 (2017): 76-79. Web.

Kendal, Sarah, Ph.D., Sue Kirk, Ph.D., Rebecca Elvey, Ph.D., and Steven Pryjmachuk, Ph.D. "How a Moderated Online Discussion Forum Facilitates Support for Young People with Eating Disorders." Health Expectations 20.1 (2016): 98-111. Web.

Marcus, Sarah-Rose. "Thinspiration Vs. Thicksperation: Comparing Pro-Anorexic and Fat Acceptance Image Posts on a Photo-Sharing Site." Cyberpsychology, vol. 10, no. 2, June 2016, pp. 37-56.

Perloff, Richard. "Social Media Effects on Young Women's Body Image Concerns: Theoretical Perspectives and an Agenda for Research." Sex Roles, vol. 71, no. 11-12, Dec. 2014, pp.363-377.

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