Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

D. Catherine Walker




Thinspiration, Fitspiration, Body Image, Social Media, Eating Disorder


Body image-related social media content often promote unrealistic beauty ideals and unhealthy behaviors (Tiggemann & Zaccardo, 2015). Common online communities that promote these ideals have been termed fitspiration and thinspiration, both of which have been found to increase body image dissatisfaction following exposure compared to neutral non-body related social media exposure (Tiggeman & Zaccardo, 2015; Boepple & Thompson, 2016). However, research has yet to examine whether viewing fitspiration is as harmful as thinspiration by directly comparing the two. The goal of this research is to determine whether fitspiration or thinspiration exposure result in a greater increase in body image dissatisfaction, negative affect, and decreased self-esteem, extending Tiggemann and Zaccardo’s (2015) findings. A total of 82 female undergraduates were recruited for a study entitled “Social Media and Marketing” and were told that the study was examining how the quality, visual appeal, and inspirational value of photographs used in social media advertising affect the success of the advertisement. Participants were randomly assigned to view either fitspiration related visual content or thinspiration related visual content and completed measures of (1) typical social networking use, (2) mood and body image dissatisfaction, (3) state self esteem, and (4) level of inspiration, to maintain the study’s stated purpose of interest in the visual quality of the images and the participants’ desire to follow accounts and purchase items featured (e.g., clothing, shoes, etc.). Initial findings showed significantly worse negative mood following fitspiration compared to thinspiration content, when controlling for pre-exposure negative mood, F(1, 80) = 8.52, p = .005. There was a marginally significant effect of condition on state self-esteem, F(1, 80) = 3.47, p = .07, and no effect of condition on body image dissatisfaction, F(1, 80) = 1.43, p = .2, after controlling for baseline state self-esteem and body image dissatisfaction, respectively. Overall, these results suggest that fitspiration content may be more harmful than thinspiration on negative mood, and as harmful as thinspiration content on body image dissatisfaction and self-esteem.

Available for download on Monday, May 17, 2021