Another look at #fitspo: A mixed methods study of fitspiration hashtags, health, and well being
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In line with previous studies examining the fitspiration trend, the current study seeks to examine new hashtag trends on Instagram. This study consists of two parts. The first being a thematic qualitative analysis of fitspiration content using steps outlined by Braun & Clarke (2006) and analyzed using Goffman’s concept of front stage versus back stage and Petronio’s communication privacy management (CPM) theory. From this analysis, seven overarching themes were found including the setting of the stage, non-verbal demeanor, presentation of self, community engagement, industry, progress, and miscellaneous. Results illustrate a dominant presence of posts related to physical health, and the importance of setting and connections within this online community are discussed. The second part quantitatively examines how fitspiration and new media content affect the self-esteem and self-worth of young adults through the framework of Festinger’s social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954). Here, the effects of different content (either new media or fitspiration) are measured through participants’ self-esteem, self-worth, and their evaluation of the realism and relatability of the content. Results indicated no significant difference in self-esteem scores between new media and fitspiration content. However, in terms of self-worth participants in the new media content were perceived as more realistic and relatable than fitspiration content, and the featured exemplars in the new media content were viewed as happier while featured exemplars in the fitspiration content were viewed as healthier, more attractive, and more successful. From this, implications related to time spent on social media, media effects, and health campaigns are further discussed. Taken together, this mixed methods approach provides an overview of content within the fitspiration hashtag, and how this content affects viewers in terms of self-esteem and self-worth.