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Effect of Body Positive Social Media on Body Image and Acceptance

22 July 2019


Since the mid-1990s, social media sites (SMS) have proliferated (Obar & Wildman, 2015; Oggolder, 2015). SMS users tend to present themselves positively according to cultural ideals (Zhao, Grasmuck, & Martin, 2008). For example, SMS users may hashtag media #fitspiration, promoting thin and muscular bodies (Boepple, Ata, Rum, & Thompson, 2016; Talbot, Gavin, van Steen, & Morey, 2017). Social comparisons to idealized bodies can trigger body image dissatisfaction (BID; Groesz, Levine, & Murnen, 2002; Myers & Crowther, 2009) and body image self-discrepancy (i.e., disparity between one’s perceived and ideal self; Higgins, 1987). In contrast, proponents of the body positive movement (BPM) have sought to expand beauty norms via SMS (e.g., Afful & Ricciardelli, 2015). The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of body positive and acceptance media (BPAM) exposure on body image. Hypotheses included: Participants in the BPAM group would report significantly greater body appreciation than #fitspiration and control groups, and #fitspiration and control groups would endorse significantly greater body image self-discrepancy than the BPAM group. Predicted moderators included body mass index, gender, racial and ethnic identification, self-esteem, SMS habits, and familiarity with the BPM. A community sample of US adults (N = 197) completed our online survey. Data revealed no significant differences post-exposure between groups on body image. Post-hoc chi square analyses showed differences regarding image preferences related to gender and BPM familiarity/alignment. About 46% of participants reported familiarity with BPM. Further, qualitative responses evidenced the popularization of the BPM.


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