In their qualitative study “Skinny Is Not Enough: A Content Analysis of Fitspiration on Pinterest,” Simpson and Mazzeo analyze fitspirational messages on social media websites. The authors utilize Bandura’ Social Cognitive Theory “to examine the standards and behaviors conveyed through social modeling, verbal messages, outcome expectancies, and social rewards in fitspiration messages” (Simpson and Mazzeo 562).
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The research reviews 1,050 social media publications answering the questions including what body standards do they promote, what behavior do they encourage, what outcome expectancies are conveyed, what model characteristics are depicted, and how do users engage with the content. The results showed that most publications promote body picture that is thin and fit rather than developing a healthy lifestyle. While the study seems coherent and straightforward, some flaws can be traced after conducting a thorough analysis.
Before delving into research, the authors conducted a literature review of the question in the introduction. They used a considerable body of references that are all relevant and unbiased; however, some outdated sources were used. The literature review acknowledges the similar studies and provides evidence from other researches about the negative consequences of fitspirational and thinspirational publications on women’s health. In short, while literature review is thorough and relevant, too many outdated sources were used, which may question the credibility of the article.
Design and Procedures
The research design is appropriate; however, the data collected is rather limited. Although the sample size of 1,050 is standard for analyzing social media content (Simpson and Mazzeo 562), other sources of data, such as interviews and existing quantitative studies could have been utilized (Stacks 169). According to, Stacks, the best qualitative researches are those based on the interviews with authorities in the sphere (169). Moreover, the data were not analyzed in a historical context; therefore, it fails to depict the shifting trends in fitspirational posts if there were any. In short, even though the content analysis method suits the purpose of the research well, the authors failed to execute some essential steps.
Results and Implications
The results of the research confirmed the hypothesis that fitspiration base rather on body image than on a healthy lifestyle. While the focus may be beneficial for fighting obesity, in most cases the emphasis often causes dissatisfaction with one’s body, low self-esteem, and eating disorders (Simpson and Mazzeo 565).
Therefore, the authors consider fitspiration quotes harmful. The results, however, lack uniqueness and only add to the generalizability of the previously conducted researches. Moreover, even though the implications of the phenomenon are described, the methods for addressing the negative consequences of fitspiration are not specified, and the authors do not recognize such a need. In short, while the results are practically significant and implications are described, some defects may be traced.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The research is well-designed, and the article is written using comprehensive language. The authors use an appropriate method and examine a standard-sized sample for analyzing social media content. However, some improvements can be made to make the article more credible. First, using less outdated sources in their literature review might be considered. Second, they may conduct some interviews with thought leaders to justify their results. Third, the means of addressing the negative consequences of fitspiration should be introduced. Even though the changes may make the matter more complicated, they can improve the reliability of the article.
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Simpson, Courtney C., and Suzanne E. Mazzeo. “Skinny Is Not Enough: A Content Analysis of Fitspiration on Pinterest.” Health Communication, vol 32, no. 5, 2016, pp. 560-567.
Stacks, Don W. Primer of Public Relations Research. 2nd ed., Guilford Press, 2010.