Body positivity on the Instagram

On: November 22, 2020
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The human psyche is shaped by the influence from the society, its cultural influence. There is a strong cultural connection between perfect body weight, “thin ideal’ to a definition of female beauty. This blog post purpose is to show Instagram activity against fat shaming, and how this activity is spreading message, as well as take a closer look at the anty-body shaming activism. 

Instagram is one of the most popular social networks. In the era of social media and self-promotion on different platforms the way we look and present ourselves online, seems to be even more important. Instagram crates space for influencers and activists. Due to its structure, Instagram allows to communicate by picture, graphics, and descriptions below them. Photographs may be used as an effective way too quickly and effectively communicate feelings as well as situations (Pittman and Reich, 2016). The Instagram account can be used to change others perception about specific aspect, to change social imaginaries, and can be used as a moral support to find other people in the same life situation (Stanley, 2020). Some researches have suggested that social media may decrease loneliness and depression and increase the perception of social support and self-esteem (Pittman and Reich, 2016). What is more there are research that indicate that using imagine-based social-media platforms increase happiness, satisfaction with life and lower perceived loneliness, and what is more photos can easily communicate feelings, thoughts or situations (Pittman and Reich, 2016). By posting simple graphics with message, or photos Instagrams users can reach to people with their message.

  Humans are highly influenced by the attitudes existing in their cultural milieu. Implicit attitudes can be shaped by even casual cultural messages, that may not even have intention to change the people’s attitudes (Ravary, Baldwin, and Bartz, 2019). Cultural norms convey information about what is good or bad, proper and valued, as well as what is beautiful (Ravary, Baldwin, and Bartz, 2019). Trying to change the perceptions of beauty and of how healthy body looks like, activists on Instagram are spreading body positive messages, and promote self acceptance. By sharing photos and descriptions with adding specific hashtags, it is possible to reach people with similar interests, promote ideas, and messages. Large number of public accounts, whose activity is visible for every user, Instagram is a platform on which with usage of hashtags it is possible to reach people with similar interests. Instagram accounts are in majority public, and everyone can follow them and see the photos posted on it (Stanley, 2020). Networks build on Instagram are not relied on or replicated by real-life friendships (Stanley, 2020). That means  people connect and follow the activity of people whom they do not know in real life, and probably would never have a chance to meet. For this reason users can follow, or be followed by other users on the basis of common interests (Stanley, 2020). Instagram accounts by their by permanent existence, persistence and insistence may be used as a way to share the story of individual, and challenge the oppression of different kind (Stanley, 2020). By sharing their own experience people can show their private perspective on the problem, and their feelings about certain stenotypes, or behavior (Stanley, 2020).  Creating graphics by account user allows to go against main discourse, and spread the message worldwide, reaching strangers as well. This way Instagram can by used as a platform for body-positive/fat-acceptance activism, by posting illustration that are refiguring essentializing notions about specific topic (Otis, 2020). The messages spread though media are shaping the way that people perceive the world, and with growth of social media cultural messages are spread faster (Ravary, Baldwin, and Bartz, 2019). Why is positive body promotion important? Researches show that conversations about food, weight and body is correlated with imagine concerns, can increase body dissatisfaction, and it is correlated with eating pathology (Corning and Bucchianeri, 2016). Self-abasing may have much stronger power than self-affirming on body satisfaction and weight stigma, as the negative message may be perceived as more authentic (Corning and Bucchianeri, 2016). There are researches that suggest that the anti-fat shaming attitudes are increasing over time, and celebrity fat-shaming can effect in increase of women’s implicit anti-fat shaming attitudes  (Ravary, Baldwin, and Bartz, 2019). While the obesity is medical term, ongoing disease, not only the cosmetic problem, body-positive influencers try to change simple binary way of assumption that fat=unhealthy, and thin=healthy (Otis, 2020). “Fat-shaming” phenomenon is the communication that contain the cultural standard “fat is bad” (Ravary, Baldwin, and Bartz, 2019). The Women are more often identified by their overweight (Otis, 2020). It leads to strong fatness association with womanless, as well as fatness is seen as the failure to be feminine enough (Otis, 2020). Female beauty is strongly correlated with body weight, and “thin ideal”, and women much more stigmatize due to their body weight, and it is women who are more likely to be fat-shamed due to the way they look (Ravary, Baldwin, and Bartz, 2019). Thin-idealizing culture causes expectation that overweighed women should feel bad about themselves (Corning and Bucchianeri, 2016).  It is also important that as H.N. Otis is presenting overweighted people are medicalized, pathologized, and stigmatized by popular as well as medical discourse, which is presented in (Otis, 2020). 

By constant and consistent imagine creation it is possible to shake the binary perception telling that fat people are unhealthy (Otis, 2020).   With #stopfatshaming, #stopfatphobia, #endfatshaming an other hashtags the anti-fat shaming activists aim to change the social attitude towards being fat. Instagram in its form allows to share the clear visual message and add the description. By using hashtags it is possible to reach large group of people and also to find the posts of other users with similar interests. With large group of users Instagram is a platform that allows to not only to reach large group of responders, but also to use the possibility that clear visual message offer.

1. Corninga A. F.,  Bucchianeri M. M., (2016) Is fat talk more believable than self-affirming body talk?. Body Image Vol. 19, December 2016, 122-125.

2. Otis H. N., (2020), Tess Holliday’s Queering of Body-Positive Activism: Disrupting Fatphobic Logics of Health and Resignifying Fat As Fit. Women’s Studies in Communication, 2020-04-02, Vol.43 (2), p.157-180.

3. Pittman M., Reich B., (2016) Social media and loneliness: Why an Instagram picture may be worth more than a thousand Twitter words. Computers in Human Behavior Vol. 62, September 2016, 155-167.

4. Ravary A., Baldwin M. W., and Bartz J.A., (2019) Shaping the Body Politic: Mass Media Fat-Shaming Affects Implicit Anti-Fat Attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 2019, Vol. 45 (11) 1580–1589.

5. Stanley P. (2020) Unlikely hikers? Activism, Instagram, and the queer mobilities of fat hikers, women hiking alone, and hikers of colour. Mobilities, 15:2, 241-256, DOI: 10.1080/17450101.2019.1696038

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