Conclusion & Recommendations

CONCLUSION

Due the development of the Internet and the rising of social media networks, the idea of body image saw a shift, that changed our way of seeing our frame and to value all its details.
With the social media becoming more and more popular, specially among the youth generation, the exposition of thousands of images every day, led us to nowadays situation, where women and men are constantly comparing with others.

As a consequence, and as the research has shown, the perception of body image on social media, mostly regarding women between 16 and 23 years old, is a serious issue that is affecting our everyday life.

For these reasons the research was aiming to answer the following question:

To what extent does social media in the United states contribute to the negative perception of body image in women between the ages of 16 and 23?

In order to answer the main question of the research, the topic was divided into three sub questions, which allowed to gather information to achieve a final resolution.

  1. Which Social Media platforms are mostly used by women between the ages of 16 and 23 in the United States.?

 

By the means of literature review it was possible to find a solution to the first sub question. To achieve our final answer to the research, it was necessary to determine which social media were the most used among the target audience analyzed, in order to help the study. As the Pew Research showed, young women in the United Stated mostly use Facebook and Instagram as their main social media platforms.

As already mentioned, Instagram and Twitter were chosen for the analysis of the online content. Both through the online program Netlytic, the analysis with the online big data analyzer, Gephi, and by the means of netnography, it was possible to see a high amount of users treating the issue of body perception.

Although Twitter was not one the most popular among the target audience, it was shown that it was more suitable for the research, in fact, the platform allows to gather qualitative data that helped the research to draw conclusions and have an overall view of the topic chosen. Many users indeed, were able to open themselves regarding the issue, within the social media platform, and allowed to gather data, although the platform in question was not one of the most popular in the country.

Instead, Facebook, although is the most popular social media platform, was not chosen for the research since, by the means of Netlytic, it was not possible to gather relevant information that could help the research. The server allowed just the analysis of a restricted group of users, therefore it was chosen not to use this platform.

  1. How do Social Media platforms influence women between the ages of 16 and 23 in the United States?

The netnography analysis allowed to answer this sub question, by gathering a numerous amount of data. The data was retrieved by many online forums, such as Reddit, but also through Instagram.

The overall results show that there is a general distinction, between the accounts of women analyzed: with a total of 358 comments, half feel that social media harm their body image perception, while the other half feel empowered by them. It was found that 55 people, out of 358, think that social media is making them insecure about their body perception, and another 35 feel disappointed while using them.

On the other side, 38 people feel motivated and 58 empowered regarding their body image perception while using social media. These findings, also show that the changings in society are leading to a much better understanding and appreciation of the body.

  1. What is the overall body image perception in women between 16 and 23 years old?

Research shows that the sample of social media users analyzed feel that there is still a major difference between the perception of body image among American women between the age of 16 and 23 years old. Many of them are experiencing disappointed and insecure, while there is a major trend that is going on among social media platforms that concerns self-acceptance. Hashtags like #Honormycurves, #Effyourbeautystandards, #Allbodiesaregoodbodies, #Celebratemysize and #Bodypositive, are becoming popular among the major social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Those hashtags promote the acceptance of the body, but also encourage women to be fearful and share a common sense of approval towards plus size bodies.

GENERAL CONCLUSION

The overall purpose of the research aimed to answer the research question presented at the beginning:
To what extent does social media in the United states contribute to the negative perception of body image in women between the ages of 16 and 23?

Social media platforms, therefore, are influencing women between 16 and 23 years old among the United States. The research found that while a sample of women is influenced negatively by social media, many others are encouraged by them. In the past years the various studies have shown many downsides of social media, highlighted the negative effect that have on women, especially the youngest ones. Although, the study conducted showed that, due to the new trend of plus size models and the acceptance of the self, women are becoming stronger and less influenced by the effect that social media have on them. Therefore, these results show that the overall perception of the body image on social media is changing in a better way. As every change, there is still a big part of the population who is still affected by the “perfect bodies” that social media shows, but regarding the United States, a shift to plus size acceptance is developing.

Recommendations

The research has shown that even today, women are still negatively influence by social media in the United States, with many women feeling insecure after seeing the pictures of ‘’perfect women’’ online. Out of the small sample that was researched it became clear that half of the women feel insecure and half feels empowered by using social media.

However, more research is needed into the different hashtags that are used by celebrities and models in order to have a clear view on the comments that people make. The hashtags that were used in this research were a big part of the plus size community on Instagram. Even though it gave a very clear view on how body positivity is changing, and the plus size community is more accepted, the outcome of the Instagram pages from models and celebrities is still favourable.
Secondly, in order to find out what the consequences are during a longer period of time, research needs to be done into that subject. As stated the effect of social media is the biggest on the youngest of the target group. By using different qualitative research methods, such as observation or interviews, and quantative research, such as netnography, more insight can be given on what the effect is over a longer period of time for a young women.

To continue, given the difference stated in perceptions of the body image in the young women and the older women of the sample, it would be recommended to change the age gap. Due to the difference of the women on that point in life it could be assumed that they have a different idea about their body in general. Since the youngest group is still in high school where there are different influences regarding this topic than in college, where most of the 23 year olds can be found. Therefore, by changing the age gap within the sample, a clearer view can be given on how the image of the body is changed by using social media in the different ages and points in life.
Lastly, social media has become a very popular way of sharing information with people across the world. In order to contain and make sure that not everyone is influenced in a bad way, more information needs to be provided on the topic. Women should be informed and made aware of the dangers of social media and how their view on body image can change.

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