Conclusion & Recommendation

Netnography

NETNOGRAPHY 

The Online Communities

For the purpose of this research, five online communities were chosen to conduct netnography.

As the information found on the platforms was relevant for the research, it was decided to focus on many instead of a few, in this way the results will aim to show a broader picture of what women between 16 and 25 think about their body image on social media and how they feel about it.

 

Reddit

Reddit is one of the biggest message boards for communities to post links, messages, questions, and to ask for advice among people all over the world. At first, one would find it a confusing and rather pointless website with no connections whatsoever, but when you put some time and effort into how it actually works, the website can be a very powerful resource. Members can comment, up and down vote messages within a thread, and these threads can consequently appear on the front- and popular page of Reddit, which are visited by hundreds and thousands of people every day (Mashable, 2013). As of November 2016 Reddit has approximately 234 million unique users, and 11.5 thousand active communities within the platform. Their monthly page view ranges from 6 to 8 million (Craig Smith, 2016).

The most important piece of information attained had to have an answer to the question:

“How do you feel about your body?”

Using keywords like “Poor body image”, “Thoughts about body”, “Body appreciation” and “Body positive advice” resulted in finding many threads about this topic. The two pages found on Reddit had 49 comments and 129 comments.

The first page was a Casual Conversation thread, meaning a user asked a simple question, in this case, “How do you feel about your body”. The participants then answered the question with few details and put out a general “casual” feeling.

The second page was dedicated to a rant (= speaking about a subject angrily) about how women are perceived and judged based on their appearance, thus causing body image issues among women. There was not exactly a question asked within this thread, the purpose of this rant was to get more people to talk about it and share their own opinion about it.

Reddit Ask Woman

Reddit Ask Woman’ is, as described by Reddit, “a window into the woman’s mind”. Ask women is a subreddit, like a nice forum. The discussions these subreddit has a clear focus.

Like Reddit, it is a message board for communities to post links, questions, discussion, and other social engagement material. However, since it is called “Ask Women”, all interactions are based on the female perspective. The website is mainly used by a large audience of female participants but men as well tend to join the discussion when it comes to issues such as feminism, abortions, relationships and in this case body image. Just like the Ask women community, there is an Ask Men community as well.

This discussion about body image 63 participants/comments and 347,144 readers.

The question asked in the forum was:

“Is anyone actually satisfied with their body?”

In the discussion, she asks the community what their own views are of their own bodies. The comments showcase the participants view on their own body describing their body perception and how it is influenced by social media and people around them.

Some talk about their mental barriers and perceptions and how that influences their own body image but others talk about their experiences and how they feel empowered by themselves and motivate others to do the same.

Quora

Quora is very much like Reddit in some ways, but the main idea of Quora is having an outlet to ask questions to the world wide web, to which people can answer. The main function of the website is a « question and answer platform ». According to Quora’s founder Adam D’angelo, Quora should be used as a collaborative information sharing and learning platform. It has a very stylish layout and many things are self-explanatory. Just like Reddit, you can also vote answers of people, and you can comment on others who have commented on your answer, however you cannot answer their comments back directly. Also, there is no down voting system, and users have the option to go anonymous, in case they want to confess something without having any traces back to them (Adam D’Angelo, 2014) . Quora is mostly active in Anglophone countries like the US, Canada, and the UK, but also where English is a de facto language such as India. The only country where English does not have an official status is in Germany. These are the top 6 countries in which Quora operates. The audience is mostly male and has a higher education profile. (Alexa, 2017) Quora has about 100 million unique visitors per month. (D’Angelo, 2016)

On Quora, the thread specifically directed towards body image. There were 17 comments, these comments were all very detailed and contained information about experiences of people who answered the following questions:

 “What is the best advice for someone struggling with body image issues and eating disorders?” and “What’s it like to have body image issues?”

The reasoning behind both Reddit and Quora is because both websites are fairly similar in the way they work and what they offer. There are a lot of people on Quora asking for advice, and many people like to share their own experience and are open for discussion, while they also give advice about how they « survived » when they were in the same position as the one asking the question. It is important to have similar platforms to work with, in order to filter the right amount of information from each website. Using the covert archived method of researching is furthermore appropriate to these websites.

7Cups

By using the method of netnography the website “7cups.com” was analyzed. The reason why it was chosen to analyze this particular website is that it is a forum, where people can talk anonymously and freely about every topic but also because there was found a discussion that could help answering the main research question. The website appeared dynamic and up-to-date, therefore it was selected for the research. Although it is similar to other online platforms, such as Reddit or Quora, it was useful for the purpose of the research.
The forum page presented an open question, that users had to fill it in:

 Looking at Social media often makes me feel _____ about my body image.”

This allowed to analyze the comments and gather information regarding how individuals perceive their body image on social media. It was not possible to identify the sex of the users that answered the open questions, but by analyzing the answers it was possible to notice that most of them were women, mostly of age between 16 and 25.

The open question was posted very recently, on February 22nd 2017, and was chosen also for the amount of comments that originated: a total of 74 comments were published under the post.

Instagram

For this part of the analysis, the platform ‘Instagram’ was used for it. The reasoning behind this is because Instagram is a great tool for people to support each other. Women share pictures of themselves in order to create awareness for body positivity but also to empower and support others.

The community that I researched was the one that commented and participated in response to a picture on the account ‘effyourbeautystandards’. This is an account that was created by @tessholiday and is run by body positive people. On the account, there are pictures posted of others, and these pictures are meant to inspire and empower the plus size community. At the moment that I analyzed the data, the account has 5,761 posts and 343k followers.

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The picture that was used was posted 2 weeks prior to the analysis and has 4,869 likes and 45 comments. It features a woman who had an eating disorder and who is now using her body to show that all the mean names are things of the past and her love for her body is the future.
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The second page researched on Instagram was called “any. body_co” which is a page with a lot of followers and that gather many users together to discuss on body image perception.

Around the time of the analysis, the picture had 12.503 likes and 351 comments and the Instagram account had 74.900 followers. The Instagram account features two women who are best friends but completely different in body size and they are trying to stop body shaming and empower women to try and love their body no matter what size. In addition, the picture was posted one week ago, so the content of the messages is recent and updated.

The Research

The information is uniquely archive, meaning that the information was not asked but retrieved from the online platforms mentioned. The role as a researcher was covert, as there were not been interactions with the participants of the forum, but just observations and notations of their answers regarding the topic. In this way, the role of the researchers has never been revealed to the communities. Moreover, the conversations analyzed were already existing, meaning the researchers just went through them for the coding process.

The Keywords

In order to find the suitable keywords to gain insight on the topic and analyze the possible discussions on the web, a mind map was made. The mind map shows the different keywords that have been used, such as “social media”, “body perception” or “forum”.  As the research proceeded, the main keyword used where “body image” and “social media”, since they summarize the main research question in detail.

To start the research and gain more insight on the topic, mind-maps were made. In this way, the different ideas and ways the research could go, have been visualized. By choosing the keywords ‘internet’, ‘body size’, ‘body perception’ and ‘target group’ the research question is supported and clearly summarized in detail. It is possible to find the mind maps in the Appendix.

The Coding

While analyzing the various online platforms, it was possible to identify eleven coding subgroups: anger, shame, consciousness, disappointment, empowerment, insecurity, motivation, sadness, satisfaction, and undefined feeling. These subgroups clearly summarize the findings while using the method of netnography. It is possible to find a list of the coding labels, with an explanation of each code and key quotations, in the Appendix.

The Results

Table 1 – 7cups Forum

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The results of the 7Cups forum show that a high amount of users (38) feels insecure regarding their body image when looking at social media, especially because it causes them a constant comparison with others.

An example is a quote from a user saying I’m not beautiful enough. My photos are not as good as my friends are… I loose my confidence in this case and feel ugly and bad of myself”.

Another common feeling among the respondents of the forum is being disappointed (22) and sad (16).  For example, a user-defined the feelings as Depressed, because I see how happy everyone else is and don’t understand why I can’t be that happy too.”  or “Like everyone lives a happy and perfect life but me.”

The overall results show a majority of negative responses, while the positive ones are present but did not score very high. Most of the comments show that the users do not like to see social media but they keep using them to stay in contact with their peers.

Table 2 – Instagram 1

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The results of the Instagram results show that most of the comments made to the picture were empowering or motivating for either the women in the picture or the people who commented on it. A total of 22 people felt empowered by these pictures and responded to it. An example of such a comment would be as follows;

Beautiful and powerful goddess. Don’t even put that behind you or on your back. Don’t let it touch you or penetrate you or invade your energy vortex. Use your strength and courage and unity with others to lift you and support you on this journey. Love to you. ’’.

A total of 6 people who felt motivated by or wanted to motivate the women in the picture. An example comment of a user is;

‘’Wow! Thank you for this. Bc I was feeling lk this. I can through this.’’
Overall, almost all of the comments were extremely positive or empowering in response to this picture. Out of the 44 comments, there were 2 negative ones.

Table 3 – Instagram 2

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The results show that a large amount (18) were motivated by the post and decided to comment something positive and inspiring. Other than motivated the second highest code (13) was the empowered code which would be in line with the motivated one seeing as this means that people decided to leave a comment that was empowering for the women in the photo and for other reading their comment. An example of a quote in the highest scoring code was:
“You two are so beautiful🤗. Thank you for sharing this with us, and to make a difference!! You two make me feel happy with who am I because you two are happy with yourself! Much love

However, there were some negative reactions making the angry code the highest (5) in that ranking and disappointed a close second (3). An example of the quotes in the angry code is the following:

 

“Somebody should go to the gym 😏

 

All in all, the post caused more positive reactions than negatives, which shows that the general view of the users was open to the different sizes and kind of bodies on social media but also open to acceptance.

Table 4 –  Reddit Ask Woman

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39 out of the 63 comments were collected and classified. The figure showcases the used codes and their frequency. Out of the 39 analyzed comments, most were generally satisfied with their body, they weren’t particularly happy about it.

Some describe it as being 70 to 90% satisfied and the remaining percentage is for improvement. This concludes that the majority of the people participating were somewhat satisfied and most of them deal with insecurities.

Aside from the general satisfaction, there were some women who felt empowered by themselves. They decided to lose weight and eating healthy, they said that this process made them appreciate and love their body more. In the end, most “empowered” women explained that they used to have a love/hate relationship with their body but have now fully accepted themselves for who they are and what they look like. They encourage others not to only look at their physical attributes but love themselves for who you are as a person. One commenter quoted:


“your body is just the car you drive in”

Overall there was a pretty negative self-perception when it comes to body satisfaction. The media is the one to blame according to participants. Is distorts the view of women on their own body and what it’s supposed to look like according to societal standards.

Satisfaction can be seen as a positive approach, however in this discussion, it was mainly used in a negative context, as said before, satisfied but not happy leaving a lot of room for improvement.

Table 5 – Reddit and Quora

The graph portrays the results of this netnography in numbers and sentiment. The sentiment is the feeling that the author of the comments had towards the discussion, and the frequency tells us how many commenters felt the same. A total of 94 comments have been analyzed thoroughly, and the sentiment with the overall highest frequency is “insecurity”.

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This concludes that many of the comments were from people who are insecure about their body or have once dealt with insecurity. The second most coded sentiment is sad, and also satisfied. For example, a user commented:

“I hate my body to the extent that it affects everything. I can’t walk into a room without thinking about it. 0% confidence”

Even though quite a few people were sad about their body or their weight, many were also satisfied with how they look and feel. Many spread positive feelings to the discussion and suggestions on how to feel beautiful despite the media standards:

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However, when you compare the positive comments to the negative ones, one can notice that 60 of the 94 comments have a negative attitude towards their body image, meaning that the majority of youngsters deal with at least some kind of body image problem.  The results have been outlined with a histogram below.

The overall results

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By using the method of netnography on five different online platforms, it is possible to gather the final results. The results show a total of 358 comments, all from different accounts found on the internet. The histogram gathers all the comments together and displays the general perception that women have on the body image in general and while using social media. As it is possible to see, the most common feelings are generally the opposite: most women feel empowered (56) but also insecure (55).

As the literature review previously showed, on one hand, users feel empowered and motivated to change and to accept their bodies, while on the other hand, many women are still struggling and have difficulties accepting their bodies. More and more people are starting to accept their bodies and to be happy about their imperfections, which shows an improvement in the society. Although, many other women, as the analysis describes, are still struggling with their acceptance and feel insecure as their open their social media platforms.

As a consequence, and like the results of the netnography show, 46 people are satisfied with their body image and 38 people feel motivated, but another 35 feel disappointed and 31 sad.

In the overall, the mixed feelings show us an incongruence between women on the internet, with half having positive feelings regarding their body images and half negatives.

Mindmap

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The Appendices (the coding and all of the mindmaps) of this research can be found by clicking here.

Rather read our conclusion and recommendations right away? Click here!

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Data Collection

Data Collection

For the data collection, the online server Netlytic was used. Netlytic is a cloud-based text and social network analyzer which can deal with big data of information and examine them. It is used to explain and analyze the connections between users of a social media platform, based on a keyword or a hashtag (Social Media Lab, s.d.).

For the purpose of the research, the iterations picked were 5, meaning 100 related items to the research analysis done. The choice was made to gain the useful information to the research, and not having to deal with a too broad information, less selective and harder to analyze.
To improve our findings, it would have been better to select the responses just of American women between 16 and 25, which was not done, due to the amount of data that resulted from the analysis. The records imported for each hashtag were 1000 at a time, which allowed a broad understanding of what people talk about or think about the hashtags analyzed.

The data file then was imported to Gephi, a tool that allows to visualize and describe better the data found for the research. To improve the findings, the layout ForceAtlas2 was used and a stronger gravity through the data was applied, in order to gather them together so that they were readable and understandable. Another filter that it was used was to color the nodes present in the data found so that the visualization was improved and it was able to explain the findings with more clarity. Last but not least, it was necessary to select the availability to show the name of the nodes in the graph. In this way, the viewers can understand better the process and the data were better described during the visualization and analysis process.

Visualization & Interpretation

#AllBodiesAreGoodBodies

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 The graph above shows the interconnection between Instagram users using the hashtag #Allbodiesaregoodbodies. The graph shows multiple clusters with each their bigger groups. The graph consists out of 575 channels and 454 conversational connections. The graph shows 9 different clusters colored green, purple, red, orange, turquoise, blue, gray, dark and light brown. The biggest cluster, a very prominent circle, is green and labeled by the account name wellandhealthy. There are multiple clusters and a lot of variation in sizes that showcase multiple differentiating conversations regarding the topic. The size of the circle represents the frequency of the hashtag and its related conversation. The biggest channel, wellandhealthy, connects to mostly smaller individual channels. Whereas the remaining clusters seem to have bigger channels communicating with each other and individuals. The remaining channels that lie out of the main conversation seem to either have a connection with one or a few other channels, or no connections at all.

 As said before, wellandhealthy is the biggest subgroup and thus has the highest frequency. Wellandhealthy is owned by a female inspiration blogger why identifies as a mom, entrepreneur and public servant. The content on her channel is mainly made up out of inspirational quotes and pictures which are mostly health related. It showcases a lot of empowerment quotes, healthy food pictures and before and after shot of people who’ve lost weight. This account has many one- and two-way communication lines with other individuals responding to her posts and her replying. Wellandhealthy does not seem to have connections with other bigger subgroups.

The 3 purple channels seem to be generally bigger than the others. They do not communicate directly with each other but seem to respond or have some connections with the same individual channels.

The same goes for the dark brown, light brown, turquoise and orange cluster. The gray clusters surround the colored groups do not engage with them but seem to have they own connections with each other. Some seem to work like a chain in which one responds to another and another person’s responds to that. Two-way connections can also be within the gray group. It is not just one person responding to a lot of other but instead, a lot of communications between the three participators.  This means that there is not just one channel discussing the #Allbodiesaregoodbodies, but also individual channels communication about/with the #Allbodiesaregoodbodies.

the same goes for the red group in which bigger edges can be observed that show clear communication connections between them. The blue circle, however, seems to one have a one-way connection with other individuals. These smaller groups are owned by people that also identify themselves instead of commercial channels. They are personal users that communicate using #Allbodiesaregoodbodies.
Wellandhealthy seems to be the only channel that is used as a “commercial” channel instead of a personal one. Thus that shows that there is a lot of conversation going around between individuals instead of larger channels pointing the hashtag out and having its followers respond to it.

#Effyourbeautystandards

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The graph above shows the different accounts, founded by research on Instagram, the well known social networking platform.  The clusters describe the interactions that the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards have within the platform and the numerous connections between the accounts regarding the keyword researched. It is possible to identify 7 main colors: green, orange, dark green, blue, purple, red, black and gray. The most evident are the colors dark green, which has connections with other clusters as well. The graphs, in the overall, identify a lot of interactivity among the hashtag chosen, and many edges, which shows many connections between the accounts.

In the bottom left corner, it is possible to identify the main cluster. named by the account @amandamonty and colored by dark green. It can be seen that the cluster interconnects with many other accounts, which shows a lot of interactivity among the users of the hashtag analyzed.

The account in question comes from a woman who is a style blogger, a columnist for the Huffington post, Canada style and lives in Toronto. The main statement on her account that can be found is that there is a style for all sizes.

In addition, the orange clusters show an interesting interconnection. There is a high interaction between all of three main clusters, which are all connected. The accounts ILPBBGZ, ILPBBGZ1, and hulk3.16 are active accounts that are all about body positivity and are trying to stop body shaming. The first two promote plus size girls by featuring them on their Instagram, the last one is an account that is focussed on stopping body shaming, but in the link, it becomes clear that it is connected to the first two. The accounts that these interact with the most are accounts from Vogue, Huffington post, Buzzfeed and the Daily Mail. It is possible to see that these three main clusters connect with a numerous amount of minor ones, which proves that this community is actively engaging with the hashtag researched.
The green cluster, on the right side, is focussed on the accounts @Jessica_jaycox, @bbwsupremacy2 and @bbw_greatest_hits. The account from @Jessica_Jaycox is from a personal user who promotes body positivity and shows that on her account by using videos and pictures. The account @bbwsupremacy2 focuses on big women and features those on their website as well. As is stated on their Instagram page, it is a shout out to plus size women and BBW.

Furthermore, @bbw_greatest_hits is an 18+ account, that features women’s pictures from other accounts to promote their body image.In the picture, the women show off their breasts or bums in order to create awareness and empowerment for the plus size community. As it can be seen, @bbw_worshipper_2 is another account that has a strong interaction with @bbw_greatest_hits. It clearly states that the pictures are featured and might be erotic in nature. As the graph shows, there is a lot of interaction between these four accounts.

When comparing the Instagram accounts with each other, it can be seen that they are all rather similar and that they keep a constant interaction. The only account that stands out from this is @Jessica_Jaycox.

Regarding blue clusters, @plussizedivagirls is the biggest one seen. The Instagram accounts of the clusters colored in blue are run by 6 bloggers who post and repost pictures of plussize women. Next to that, the biggest node is an account that publishes posts of other accounts on Instagram. It is not completely clear what the connection is between the two. After looking up the account (@repostapp), it became clear that it is an account that is not used very much, with only 12 pictures, and one can assume that this page is not real. Moreover, all the accounts that are connected with this user are all having a high amount of followers with extremely low content on the page itself. Therefore, with exception of the @plussizedivagirls account, this cluster is not of high relevance to our research.

The last cluster in this screenshot is the one where @Madamxxl is the biggest distributor of content. The account belongs to Ekaterina Kovratskaya who is a fashion blogger. It is interesting to see the link between the accounts. The two that stand out are the @effyourbeautystandards and @plusmodelmag. The first one was created by Tess Holiday and it is the account behind the hashtag. The latter is a magazine that focuses on plussize models. On their Instagram, they feature everything about being plus size, from models to fashion trends. As part of their social media marketing, they came up with the hashtag #celebratemysize.

The pink cluster in the top left corner is another Instagram account who makes use of the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards. Like the others, this is an account that promotes and shows fashion in the plus size industry. The account is meant to inspire the plus size women in what she can wear. Connections are made to the account of Shamari82, who was featured on the Instagram, and Cocoscurvycloset, who was also featured there. Both accounts are pro-plus size women and are promoting this phenomenon.

The purple cluster shows a different interest compared to the others. In this cluster, most of the active accounts who use the hashtag, are accounts from make-up artists. There is a lot of interaction with the account of Anastasiabeverlyhills, which is the official account of the make-up brand. It can be assumed that the women who post the pictures, are using the products and tag the brand in it, in order to have its recognition and to gain more attention. Furthermore, when looking into the other nodes, which are connected to the big ones, other make-up brands become apparent. It is clear that the minor accounts are connecting to the major ones, for promotion purposes only.
However, all the make-up artists who are interacting with each other and the brands are using the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards.

Lastly, the black cluster is the account that belongs to Emily. She is just a regular user of Instagram, which means that she does not particularly promote plus size women. However, according to her pictures, she is part of the plus size community and she uses the hashtag as well on her pictures. Indirectly, her account is connected to the account of curvy.be, which is another account that features plus size models on their page. This account is connected to a Facebook page where they promote that curves are beautiful.

#Honormycurves

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The graph made with Gephi is the results of the interconnection within the social media platform Instagram regarding the hashtag #HonorMyCurves. The main clusters, colored with black blue and red, are the ones which show the highest activity on Instagram regarding the hashtag #HonorMyCurves.

In a more detailed section of the graph, we can see five many main nodes, colored with five different colors: blue, pink, purple, black and gray.

The node Barbaracaribe, colored in blue, is one of the biggest subgroups that uses the hashtag #honormycurves. The account described is a fashion blogger from Brazil, but also a plus size model. It can be seen that the account has many edges and is connected to other nodes which use the same hashtag with a less frequency.

In addition, the subgroup with the color black follow the same phenomena. The account called Martiipal is a fashion blogger from Italy. It is possible to see that the node connects and is connected with many other nodes that consequently may or may not use the hashtag researched in a less frequent way.

Regarding the gray nodes, it is possible to identify many edges between them. As those nodes are also a big community, although the frequency of their involvement regarding the hashtag taken to consideration, is not high. Many groups of nodes are separate from the many clusters, which suggests that the nodes have some similarities but do not reach within the community.

Furthermore, one will notice that the purple nodes are connected in a different way: there are three main nodes that use the hashtag #honomycurves more often and are all interconnected with smaller nodes of the same color. The nodes are very interactive and are the second largest group within the overall graph. The bigger nodes (carolinaplussize, brimarqz and pureivorydotca) are all plus size model, which promote body positivity and acceptance. Since their followers are many, their edges show a lot of interconnections with other accounts using the same hashtag.

From this third perspective of the graph, it is possible to notice a representative dark green node, on the top right, separated from the other main nodes. The node shows activities between the subnodes and the main one, but no connections with the other colored nodes. The same is possible to be seen with the other gray nodes around the central focus of the graph. This means that there is a lot of activity around the hashtag #honoryourcurves, but not always interconnected by edges.

This last graph shows the presence of a subgroup of nodes in green, which are a community without any connection with the main and central nodes of the graph. The interactivity between the green nodes is substantial, and the number of the main nodes that spread to the smaller ones are several, therefore there is a lot of interactivity and connections regarding the hashtag searched and the nodes themselves.

#Celebratemysize

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In the graph shown above we can see the results of the interconnection of the hashtag #celebratemysize on Instagram Within the biggest clusters, the gray and the purple cluster, it shows you that these are the clusters with a very high activity with the #celebratemysize hashtag and then the pink and turquoise clusters show the lowest.

Looking at the purple nodes, we can see that the biggest circle, called Martiipal is the biggest subgroup that uses the hashtag #celebratemysize. The account described is an Italian blogger who identifies herself as a plus size women who positively celebrates all sizes. Within the green group, which is also a large cluster, it is also clear that there is a lot of interaction between the nodes who also all go by a name related to the hashtag celebrate my size like ‘fashionpolis’,’plusmodelmag’ and ‘fullfiguredfashion’.

For the other large subgroups, the graph shows that the gray nodes also make up one big cluster, yet it is different than the green and purple cluster. Within the gray nodes you can see that, although it has a lot of nodes, the frequency of their interaction is not as high as the other clusters. You can see this by the distance between the nodes which means that even though they might have some similarities they do not reach within this particular community.

Another large subgroup is the blue group. Within the blue group, there is also one big node that interacts with the other smaller nodes. The account that is linked to the big node is called ‘styleandcurve’ and it is an account from a magazine that posts empowering images for and of plus sized women.

#BodyPositive

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The graph above illustrates who uses the hashtag #bodypositive the most in their Twitter posts, and which accounts pick up on this hashtag and interact with it as well. Each color in the graph represents a new conversation with a different group of Twitter users, the same color circles are all linked together, and the linkage is visualized through edges that start at the account that started sharing the hashtag #bodypositive.

Every circle in the graph portrays is a cluster, and it portrays a conversation between sources and targets. The biggest clusters are indicated with the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, and purple. The bigger the cluster, the higher the amount of the interactions. All clusters have a direct engagement with their targets, and the different clusters don’t have any correlation between them. Most of the clusters in this analytic have many similarities and are in some way connected to each other, however, there is also an orange cluster which seems to be apart from the other clusters.

Zooming into the lower section of the graph, one will notice three main clusters. Cluster red, cluster indigo, and cluster purple. The red cluster is the most active group of our sample. This activity has been initiated by Twitter user Nightbloodheda. This user is from the United States and is a dedicated fan account for the American drama teen-show Teen Wolf. This user posts many pictures and short videos of the actors with a positive manner and #Bodypositive has been found 39 times in her posts.

The indigo cluster portrays user Marcird as the source of this hashtag. Approximately 19 people have reposted their post in regards to #Bodypositivity. In her posts, she mostly talks about her clients, how she enjoys helping them, and how one’s weight doesn’t reflect who someone really is. From her posts, we can conclude that she stands for body positivity, and she spreads positive quotes about body image.

From all clusters in this graph, cluster purple that’s involved with user Bodypositiv3, is the smallest. This user has dedicated her entire profile to #bodypositivity and other related hashtags such as #Bodyposi and #Nudebodyposi. In the analysis, she has 11 mentions. The cluster is a bit further away from other clusters, which means that she has few similarities with the other clusters that are close to each other.

In the illustration above we can see the top section of the graph, which includes yet again 3 main clusters from the analysis. The biggest cluster belongs to user Ibansaram. This user is pro-nudism and pro-body positivity movement. A difference between many other users is that this user also promotes body positivity among males, which hasn’t received as much attention as body positivity for females.

The next cluster is the yellow one with user Reesdaniels. Despite having a small following, she has been mentioned 17 times in the analysis. In addition to #bodypositivity, she also focusses more on black women. This could be a possible explanation as to why the cluster is all the way on top because, within the movement, she predominantly supports black women and their bodies.

The last cluster in this section is the blue cluster from user Nedastaff. Nedastaff is a support group for individuals and families affected by eating disorders. Their use of #bodypositivity pairs with #bodyimage and #eatingdisorders. They focus mostly on activism and creating awareness about eating disorders, rather than posting pictures of women who are happy with their body, like the rest of the movement.

Conclusion

After finalizing our data scraping research, we can conclude a couple of noticeable things about the involvement of the appearance of women on the internet. First of all, the most active groups of people who spread these hashtags are mostly bloggers, vloggers, writers, columnists, overall people with a large following. They dominate most of the biggest clusters and associate with the movement. Second of all, our research shows that the movement is active globally, and not just in the United States. The demographics are very diverse, from Italian, Spanish and Brazilian bloggers, to Canadian columnists and American dieticians. Furthermore, these hashtags all portray a positive outlook on plus size women and the fact that there is nothing to be ashamed of when being overweight. So, while fitness bloggers or health accounts mostly encourage to lose weight, this movement supports plus size women regarding their appearance, that they should be proud of who they are. So both types of accounts want people to be comfortable with themselves, but what is distinguishing them is one supports a healthy lifestyle, while the other supports a healthy way of thinking about oneself.

Besides the accounts who support plus size women in general, there are also a couple of accounts who focus on subcategories, like black women or men. However, the hashtags are predominantly used for and by women.

This is the end of our data scraping research, to get to the next research method Netnography click here. Or click on the Netnography button in the menu on top.

Data Scraping

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:
– Instagram
– Twitter
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.

Why Instagram?

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.

Instagram Demographics.png

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.

Why Twitter?

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 Twitter Demographics
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.

social media compared.png

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.

LIMITATIONS

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:

#AllBodiesAreGoodBodies

#Effyourbeautystandards

#Honormycurves

#Celebratemysize

#BodyPositive 

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).

1

(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).

2

(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.

3

(Picture retrieved from Pinterest)

Wordclouds

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:

#HonorMyCurves
#CelebrateMySize
#EffYourBeautyStandards
#AllBodiesAreGoodBodies
#BodyPositive

#Honormycurves

Honormycurves.png

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.

#Celebratemysize

wordcloud.png

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.

#Effyourbeautystandard

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.

Schermata 2017-04-03 alle 01.26.58.png

#Allbodiesaregoodbodies

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.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 22.39.01.png

#BodyPositive

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.

wordcloud2.png

Click here to get redirected to the Data Collection and Visualization part of this research.

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.

Research Proposal

 

Introduction And Background

In the last few years, there has been a shift between the popularity of main stream media, like magazines and television, towards the widely known phenomenon of social media. But this has also brought up the everlasting discussion on the impact that media has on body image and whether this is negative or positive. Mainstream media has always been blamed for having a negative influence on the view of body image in our modern society. However, with the shift in popularity of mainstream media to what we now know as social media it is yet another topic of discussion. In the past few years the statistics on body image were shocking to our society.

        80% of women in the U.S do not like how they look and that
–     80% of 10 year old’s are afraid of being fat
        53% of 13-year old American girls are unhappy with their body and this number grows to 78% by the time they are 17.  (Gallivan, 2014) 

Statistics like these bring up the important discussion of the influence of social media on body image and whether this is a societal issue that needs to change. Therefore we have decided to implement the following research 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?

The objectives:

         The rise in popularity of social media
         The statistics of body image in the past five years
         The statistics of body image in before that
         How social media could influence body image
         Can the influence of social media become positive

Research question and sub-questions

Research question

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

Sub-questions
1. Which Social Media platforms are mostly used by women between the ages of 16 and 23 in the United States.?
2. How do Social Media platforms influence women between the ages of 16 and 23 in the United States?

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

Literature review

As the internet started to be more inter-functional and user generated, also concerns regarding body image have increased. In a society where social media are a daily routine, seems that we are constantly exposed to media and so the following became an integrated part of our lives (Veldhuis, Konijn, & Seidell, 2013).

What is Body Image?

Body image is the perception of the self-body, a self-evaluation of one’s body. The concept of body image can be seen as positive, when individuals accept their body, or negative when instead they are ashamed of it or they desire to change it. (Hye-Ryeon, Hye Eun, & Jounghwa, 2014).

It was proven that social media and body image have an inevitable interconnection, where social media cause negative body image perceptions every day. But how?

This video includes an interview from the very famous Teen Vogue magazine with a few of their models. They ask the models some questions about body image and you won’t believe their answers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpuFlkL8lcY

(Vogue, 2016)

The concept of negative body image has become more and more discussed, since the rise of a globalization of media. With the increasing influence that the western cultures play to the peripheral countries, the media started to shape a fake concept of “perfect body”, which eventually has been followed and desired (Bell, 2016).

In the recent years also, and mostly, social media also started to influence and shape the concept of “perfect body”, also defined as “beachbody” which eventually individuals, especially young women, try to seek (Fardouly, Diedrichs, & Vartanian, 2015). As a result of this phenomena,  studies show that adolescents under the age of 19, show a massive decrease in self-esteem and positive body perception, due to the long exposure to media images (Voelker, Reel, & Greenleaf, 2015; Voelker, Reel, & Greenleaf, 2015).

“Adolescence is a critical period in body image development”

With the usage of social media becoming popular among individuals, it also led to the outset of opinion leaders within this new type of media. An opinion leader is a somebody that has the power to influence, positively and negative, other people (Bell, 2016).

In addition, it has been shown that trends of social media such as exercises, beauty or diet programs, affect the perception that young women have on their bodies, increasing dissatisfaction and tendency to change it (Voelker, Reel, & Greenleaf, 2015). Individuals nowadays use social media daily, posting, sharing or liking hundreds of pictures or posts. People can access the internet from everywhere, which allow them to be constantly subjected to social media and social networks.

Research also shows that women are constantly comparing themselves and their bodies, to others and as the inclination to compare increases, so does the negative perception of their body image (Fardouly, Diedrichs, & Vartanian, 2015).Social media such as Facebook and Instagram are major sources of media, where women are subjected to hundreds of pictures every day, all showing the perfect body image. This constant exposition leads young women to aspire to have the perfect body, as the perfect skin or the perfect hair and to a homogenization of the self (Bell, 2016).

In fact, in one hand, according to Alexandra Sifferlin, journalist, and writer for Time Health, many women found relief in the recent years as they began to accept their bodies and to live without worries. From 1981 and 2011, the general dissatisfaction from women of their bodies went down of 3.3 points. This is also because people, especially in the United States are oversized, therefore it is more normal to feel comfortable. In addition, the image of the woman is changing in the media so this could be a factor that leads to this improvement. Thanks to the emerging body diversity people are more willing to accept their body  (Sifferlin, 2016).
Women are still subjected to thousands of pictures every day, where super skinny models are sunbathing or having a drink, and they look perfect. Social media allow us to have so many ways to express ourselves and to showcase our person but makes us also able to see what other people do on a daily basis. With the rise of Photoshop and other hundreds of retouching programs, the difference between real and not is very hard to detect (Scherker, 2014).

 

To sum up, Social media leads to:

  • Increased popularity of the so-called “beach body” or “perfect body”
  • The rise of opinion leaders which influence young women to become like them
  • The popularity of diet, exercise and workout pages
  • Constant comparison with other people
  • Shaped perfection as something achievable

These factors help to understand the effect of the social media regarding body perception

but also are allow to explain why this topic is a very discussed topic nowadays. As a consequence, this research will show in depth the extent to which social media are affecting our body perception, and how truly they are connected to this phenomenon.

This video is a short documentary film interviewing normal people in a school on their body image, on social media and the connection between the two.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qo6zmWy26VY

(Twidle & Williams, 2016)

Methodology

During this extensive research we will be looking at different kinds of research methods. Apart from some literature review, there will also be conducted research through trend analysis, data visualization and netnography. This section will focus on the definition of these research methods, and how the methods will be utilized and applied to the research question.

Trend Analysis

Trend analyses are roughly described as the practice of analyzing big amounts of data, and finding a pattern or « trend » within these data. It is used to predict and forecast what could happen in the future or foresee uncertain events that yet have to find place.

When it comes to the application of this research method to the research question “To what extend does social media have a negative effect on the body image of females from 18 to 23 years old”, the researchers should portray a trend analysis on which is shown how bad women think of their body image to the amount of time they spend on social media. This research method could be paired with a survey so the research team would have their own information, or they could use previously found literature in order to accurately display this trend.

Something that is also applied in this research, is data scraping and trend analysis through Netlytic. This is to accurately collect data of one of the new hashtag trends that have been going around on social media regarding our research question. Netlytic is a cloud-based data collection tool used to analyze and process big amounts of information on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. The tool portrays connections between sources and targets of a specific keyword or hashtag, and also shows more detail about the person who has initially shared their post. (Social Media Lab, s.d.) The figure below portrays how a netlytic analysis looks like.

Picture1.png

Data Visualization

This method is used to put as much data as efficiently as possible into a figure, so one will have a clear vision of the outcome of the data and is able to conclude things in a glance. This is mainly used to have clear overview of the collected data, and to communicate the data through visual objects. Figures include graphs, plots and statistical graphics. This method goes hand in hand with most quantitative research and some qualitative researches that include some sort of binary data. Furthermore, this method is widely used to portray big data to an ordinary audience.

Just like the trend analysis, it is also possible to utilize survey outcomes and portray them through graphs or histograms. The audience are females from 18 to 23-year-olds, this audience is very broad and active on social media, which means that the amount of data about this particular issue will be too much to implement it into a diagram or scheme, data visualization would be the most appropriate way to display the findings. (PewResearchCenter, 2016)

The information gathered through Netlytic does not really give us a representation of the data. For this we need another tool called Gephi. Gephi is a data visualization tool that uses edges and nods to portray how data connects with each other, and what the similarities are between users of the keyword or hashtag. In the figure below one can see an example of how a Gephi analysis looks like. The same colors represent the same topics and how frequent they appear in the analysis.

Picture2.png

Netnography

Netnography is a branch of ethnography that provides and in-depth analysis of everyday life and behavior in an online medium. (Karr, 2015) This method involves a team of researchers that observe different online platforms as for example forums and gather comments and reviews for a better understanding of the audience’s feelings and perceptions.

By the means of the anonymity that the Internet provides for the users, people feel more confident to speak up and criticize or confess their own perception of their body image, and to find peers to interact and relate with. Their comments and reviews in online communities are unpolished and raw opinions about their own body image, therefore netnography allows the researchers to analyze accurate data provided by the audience themselves.

The researchers can also opt out for forums like Reddit or Quora, in order to follow conversations, or start topic themselves. Using forums can lead to raw and personal opinions since many forums are also anonymous. Users can choose their own personal nickname and choose to hide their real one.

The researchers can go on a social media site like Facebook, and go undercover into one of the many Facebook groups for young females. They all feel comfortable to share their feelings in this “community” and ask for advice and help from peers. Through reading the posts young females share in these communities the researchers can draw conclusions.

With this study the researchers want to look into the lives of young females between the ages of 18 and 23, and how social media influences their way of thinking of themselves, both physically as well as mentally.

 

 

Online Research

 

Social media

Google trends allows researches to search particular topics. The service showcases the relevancy and popularity of the trend/topic worldwide, within countries and states.

The topic of the this research project is conducted on social media usage within the United states. Body image and perception fits within the field of beauty and fitness. Physical attributes currently define beauty when it comes to social media platforms. Fitness is a hot topic when talking about physical beauty. It leads to a very fitness healthy orientated generation of Instagram users while at the same time stirring controversy by only including thin lean and sporty women, excluding plus size, curves and every other body that does not fit this norm.  By being as specific as possible, the results will be more accurate.

 

The topic social media within the United States within a span from 2004 till now related to the topic Beauty & Fitness shows a strong rise of social media interest around the end of 2007. The number 1 related topic to the social media term is Instagram. Twitter scores on this same list coming in at number 4.

 

Image 1 (Google, 2017)

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Instagram

Instagram the platform on which this research is mainly based on. Instagram Has been having a rising popularity since 2011. Again the search specifications: United states, a span of 5 years, Beauty & Fitness have been used. Looking at the relating topics, Instagram is mostly known for featuring rich, famous good looking people with an extravagant lifestyle.

On number 1, Dan Bilzerian, an American poker player whom is know for his big houses, extremely expensive cars and hordes of good looking female companions. The remaining 4 are all female models showing off their thin lean bodies, flawless skin and high fashion wear.

 

Image 2 (Google, Instagram, 2017)

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