Tools and Platforms
Data scraping is an important process when it comes to research, therefore it is crucial to choose the right online platform to research, otherwise, the results can be mixed or inadequate.
For this reason, it was decided to examine two different social media, in order to get better results:
The data scraping was then done through Netlytic, a useful tool that allows to better collect data from online platforms, such as the ones were decided to use.
Just like other social networks, Instagram is a platform where users interact with other users by following them, being followed by them, commenting, liking, tagging and private messaging. In addition, every user is able to upload pictures and editing them on the social media network itself.
According to the Pew Research Center (2016), the total number of the American women using Instagram is 38%, which compared to men (26%) shows a majority. it is possible to see that men and women between 18 and 29 are frequent users of the platform, scoring 59% within the whole nation (Pew Research Center, 2016).
In the recent years, as the New York Times stated, Instagram became a “Body-Image battleground” as many people criticize or are criticized about their bodies and weaknesses. In fact, the platform is often used as a mean of empowerment to other women. For this reason, the social media platform hopefully can give decisive results for the research (Friedman, 2015).
The reason that Instagram plays such a big role with the chosen topic is because it gives visual evidence to the trend. A lot of celebrities and model post pictures of themselves in tiny bikini’s and curve hugging outfits that show their unachievable figures. Aside of having professional photographers taking pictures of them after they have been heavily makeup, the images are also altered by applying filters that the tool itself provides its users. Of course all social media platforms feature this type of content but Instagram is one of the major contenders because the whole service revolves around visual content.
Another reason why it was chosen to analyze data on Instagram is that the platform is really popular among people between 16 and 25, especially women (Seligson, 2016). Research show that 31% of women regularly use Instagram, post pictures, like and comment them, while just 24% of men do the same (Parker, 2016). As a consequence, the more people use the platform, the more is possible to find relevant results, compared to other types of social media which might be less used among women between 18 and 25 years old.
Twitter is known for its tweets that only allow you to use 140 characters, for this reason,
is defined as a microblog. Is also defined as a social messaging, meaning that users are able to interact with others and to share their ideas and comment regarding any topic. It is possible to follow people and also to be aware of the latest news, in all one online platform. It is also a great tool for social media marketing since the platform is used by many celebrities and politicians (Nations, 2016). With that, comes the easy to use social media that provides the opportunity for people to express themselves and their thoughts, in a short and effective way (Moreau, 2016).
According to the Pew Research (2016), during the last years, Twitter created a lot of success within the United States of
America. It can be seen that the total amount of women using the platform is 25%, therefore is not really relevant, but between people within 18 and 29 years old, the platform is used by 36% of them. This shows a popularity of the platform in the country, but not as relevant as Instagram and Facebook (Pew Research Center, 2016)
Even though Twitter is not the most used social media platform among American women between 16 and 23 years old, it provides qualitative data that is useful to analyze for the purpose of the research.
Because of these reasons, Twitter was chosen as a research tool to analyze, since its content varies and their users freely post their opinions, as they use the platform as a blog. In this way, it is useful to analyze and better understand individual’s general opinions regarding body image on social media.
When comparing Instagram to twitter it is often seen as image versus words and that is why also Twitter was chosen for this research. Instagram allows to get a visual insight of what people perceive as either positive or negative body but with Twitter you gain insights on people’s opinions and the revolution within the body image community in a more in-depth way.
For example: when you look up the hashtag body image on Instagram, the content tend to get more visuals: pictures of people empowering either others or themselves by making it more of a positive movement or negative direct comments to other accounts, whereas on twitter you tend to see people express their opinion on society and our perception of our body. This is why the two platforms were both analyzed so that the results of the data scraping could be objectives and various.
The social media demographic research, conducted by the Pew Research Center has also compared the various social media platforms and identified the most popular ones within the U.S. population. Facebook remains the leading one, followed by Instagram, while Twitter is seen as the last one between the major players in the market.
It was decided not to use Facebook for the data analysis because it was found to have less information about the topic. In addition, the tool used for the data scraping, Netlytic, allowed just to analyze one group of individuals within the social media platform.
Instead, Twitter and Instagram were found to be very useful for the research, and more related to the topic.
As mentioned, the research conducted by the Pew Research Center was done in 2016, therefore the numbers could have been changed during the years. The research was chosen because it was the most recent among the web and because of the reliability of the source. Unfortunately, the research did not show the exact number of American female, between 16 and 23, using the various social media platforms, but it was possible to gain a general understanding, in order to proceed with the research and the data scraping analysis.
Keywords and Hashtags Selection
It was decided to research five key hashtags that are very used among young women nowadays since each of them was recently “born” and spread out through the social media platforms.
The hashtags researched are:
The first hashtag research was #AllBodiesAreGoodBodies. The hashtag was created to promote a campaign launched by Smart Glamour’s that goes by the name of #FashionForAll.
The mission is to create clothes that fit every body shape and size, in order to satisfy women and not to no exclude anyone. The campaign is also a promotion of body positivity and launches clothes dressed by models of different shapes and ethnicity, other than size (Drozdowski, 2015).
(Image retrieved from Bustle.com)
This hashtag is mainly used on visuals that show bodies in all shapes and sizes. These pictures show weight gain before and after results, plus size women, average woman doing normal activities, personal story, and quotes that support body embracement. The hashtag “AllBodiesAreGoodBodies” is originally used for a photo shoot project. Instagram users use the hashtag to show solidarity and embrace all shapes and sizes. Because everybody is a good body, meaning that being skinnier doesn’t make you prettier or better.
The second hashtag that was analyzed was #Effyourbeautystandard. This hashtag was created by Tess Holiday, or known as Tess Munster, who the largest woman who has ever been signed to a model agency. She has made it her mission to make women feel confident in their bodies, no matter what size they are and whether or not other people think if they are beautiful. Not only did she create a hashtag, she also created an Instagram account that has over 342.000 followers and they share a picture of curvy and plus size women who show off their bodies. (Bahadur, 2015).
“I created the hashtag [#EffYourBeautyStandards] because I was tired of being told what I could and couldn’t wear by the media and how I should cover my body because of my size,” (Tess Munster).
(Retrieved from The Huffington Post)
Another keyword it was decided to research is “#HonorMyCurves”, as this word allows to get insights about what people on social media think about their bodies and how the perceive them in general. The hashtag was chosen because it is a way of perceiving the body, as an acceptance to the weaknesses and imperfect details that every woman has. These words are main keywords to achieve findings since along with social media, can lead to interesting results regarding the new trend of plus size models and fashion that is spreading in these years. Furthermore, after researching on the internet and on Instagram, a website that shows you all the pictures related to one hashtag, it was found that “#HonorMyCurves” is very popular among the online platforms: on Instagram it resulted in 651.284 posts and on Twitter was in the trends section (Instagram, s.d.) (Twitter, s.d.).
The hashtag #BodyPositive was also researched since it reflects the main purpose of the study.
It allows an understanding of the interconnections between users and hashtags regarding the topic of body image as body perception. It is also important for the research to understand the content that is going around through the Internet, and being associated with this hashtag. As national eating disorders organization mentioned, body image is described as the following: “Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind.” (NEDA, 2016). Body image can be seen as both positive and negative and that is why it is helpful to search on social media all the links and meanings the people have about their own body image and how they express this.
Furthermore, in order to find out how social media users associate showing their bodies on the internet, the hashtag #Celebratemysize This hashtag was created a couple of years ago by a community, who believed that women, in all forms and sizes, should be able to post their bodies on the internet with no shame. This way people try to live up to the hashtag and appreciate their bodies. The hashtag has been used very widely among social media users since the Netlytic tool that was used for this research found more than 1000 posts containing this hashtag in less than 5 minutes.
#Celebratemysize has all to do with how people perceive themselves, and people who are afraid to put their selves out there. Using this hashtag, one might feel more secure and safer about portraying their body and consequently, this could potentially make others feel good about their body. Many females validate their own body perception, on how others see them. On Instagram people can like and comment under pictures, the more people like one’s pictures, the better they feel about themselves and their body. This hashtag is in a way, a way to “appreciate” your body through the validation and likes of others, which could help with females’ self-esteem and body image.
(Picture retrieved from Pinterest)
For the purpose of the research, the five hashtags were analyzed, to find relevant keywords connected. The connections can show the possible interactions of the hashtags regarding to the topic. In order to analyze them, five different word clouds were created.
The five hashtags researched were:
The word cloud results show that the hashtag #HonorMyCurves is often used with the hashtags #plussize, #effyourbeautystandards, #bodypositive or #celebratemysize. The synonymous are positive for the majority of the cases, except when the hashtag is associated with “fatshion”. Based on this, the hashtag is perceived as acceptance of your body, therefore a message to women to feel beautiful and to accept their curves and their body shape. The hashtag demonstrated to be also used with words like plus sizes clothes and plus size fashion, which nowadays is a trend that is expanding very fast in the society.
The word cloud shows the text analysis of the hashtags related to the #celebratemysize hashtag. Moreover, it shows all of the popular hashtags that are related to the celebrate my size hashtag and that the body image positivity movement has increased in its popularity by all the use of these related hashtags. Other than the celebrate my size hashtag there are a few very popular ones like #plussize, #bodypositive, #boldncurvy #plussizefashion, #plussize model and a few more related ones. They are all surrounding the revolution of empowering people to feel happy and confident about themselves and their body no matter the shape or size.
The hashtags that are often used in connection are the ones that celebrate body positivity and are against body shaming such as #bodypositive or #plussizefashion. It is often used as a mean of empowerment to other women, and this is shown in the pictures used; women pose in normal clothes, such as bikinis or lingerie and by doing so showing that it is a good thing to be a plus size or curvy girl. For this other hashtags were used such as #celebratemysize and #plussizemodel.
The hashtag AllBodiesAreGoodBodies is linked to a lot of plus size orientated hashtags. #losehatenotweight; people should love all bodies no matter shape or size. Losing weight is not the solution. And other hashtags like #plussize, #fatshion & #fattitude. All hashtags stand for embracing the body that you are in and loving it no matter the shape or size.
The word cloud results show that the hashtag “#bodypositive” is often used with the word “body”, “love” or “fitness” or “beautiful”. The synonymous are positive for the majority of the cases, except when the hashtag is associated with “weight” or “lbs” (pounds) and “weightloss”. Just from this first research, it becomes clear that the hashtag is perceived as acceptance of your body, therefore a message to women to feel beautiful and to accept their bodies, but also as a synonymous of losing weights and weighting in general.