Date of Award

Spring 3-11-2022

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

School

Communication

Committee Chair

Dr. John Meyer

Committee Chair School

Communication

Committee Member 2

Dr. David Davies

Committee Member 2 School

Communication

Committee Member 3

Dr. Brent Hale

Committee Member 3 School

Communication

Abstract

With the vast increase in social media use, there has also been an increase of exposure to body image ideals via photos shared online. Accordingly, it has become more important to understand the association between social media and how its users view their body image, as well as how social media users’ practices are affected by posted pictures. Therefore, this study employed three focus groups to explore young women’s perceptions of potential ideal images, how they compare themselves to these images, and how these ideas affect the practices used within their own Instagram accounts. An analysis of the qualitative data from 15 participants revealed three themes and one subtheme: admiration, but not participation; panel for posting with the subtheme "three is a sweet spot"; and societal standards destroy self-image. The themes and subtheme represent the participants’ thoughts and actions surrounding social media images and practices carried out within their own Instagram accounts. Further, the analysis revealed a dual and paradoxical pattern related to the thin ideal as participants do not like the thin ideal, but want to fit into it, while also understanding that they should not model themselves after thin-ideal influencers. They also support the body positivity movement but are not comfortable posting body positive content. To manage the paradox, participants took actions to create an idealized Instagram account while also taking steps to avoid the thin ideal.

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