- En studie i unga svenska kvinnors kamp för en sundare livsstil med Instagram som plattform

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ABSTRACT Titel: #FromSicknessToFitness – En studie i unga svenska kvinnors kamp för en sundare livsstil med Instagram som plattform Författare: Jolanda Toivola Kurs: Examensarbete i medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap (30 hp) Institutionen för journalistik, medier och kommunikation Göteborgs universitet Kurskod: MK2502 Termin: Vårtermin 2015 Handledare: Malin Sveningsson Antal ord: 35 372 ord, exklusive titelblad, abstract, executive summary, innehållsförteckning, referenser, appendix och bilagor. 40 499 totalt. Antal sidor: 98 sidor, exklusive referenser, appendix och bilagor. 108 sidor i sin helhet. Syfte: Syftet med uppsatsen är att undersöka om och hur Instagram används som verktyg i arbetet att skapa en sundare livsstil. Detta avser specifikt unga svenska kvinnor i åldrarna 18-25 år som haft eller har en ätstörning av något slag. Metod: En kombination av kvantitativ innehållsanalys och intervjuer. Material: 322 Instagram-inlägg publicerade under hashtaggen #FromSicknessToFitness i mars 2015 och 3 intervjuer med unga kvinnor som nyttjat hashtaggen ifråga. Huvudresultat: Denna studie visar att unga svenska kvinnor, som haft eller har en ätstörning, idag nyttjar Instagram i sitt arbete att bekämpa sin ätstörning. Det primära verktyget och dess mest uppskattade egenskap utgör potentialen att här hitta andra som befinner sig i samma sits och delar ens erfarenheter, att knyta vänskaper och även, om en så önskar, ta dessa vänskaper utanför Instagrams virtuella ramar. Det är ett stöd som är unikt med avseende på att personerna som samlas under en hashtag som #FromSicknessToFitness alla har något gemensamt: ätstörningen. Dock identifierar denna studie även Instagram som ett i allra högsta grad tveeggat verktyg, vilket kräver en medvetenhet och en aktiv selektiv exponering för att nyttja Instagram i ett konstruktivt syfte och undgå de potentiella kontraproduktiva effekter som plattformen också kan ha. Studien är en av de första i sitt slag i att visa hur virtuella stödgrupper idag hittat sin väg till Instagram. Keywords: sociala medier, unga kvinnor, hälsohets, ätstörningar, fitness, selektiv exponering, kroppsideal, identitet, gemenskap, Instagram, stödgrupper EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This master’s thesis combines three current issues: the health trend sweeping over the Western world, Instagram and eating disorders. More exactly, the aim of this study is to examine whether, and if so, how Swedish young women at the age of 18 to 25 years, who have or have had an eating disorder, use Instagram as a platform in their strive for a healthier lifestyle – a life without the eating disorder. The research questions I pose in this study and aim to answer are the following: RQ 1: Which type of material is published under the hashtag FromSicknessToFitness? RQ 2: Can Instagram be used as a tool in the work to combat an eating disorder, and if so, how? RQ 3: How do young women experience the platform’s potential to create communities with others who share their experiences? As Instagram is a relatively new platform within the world of social media, no previous research has been done on this topic in particular. Hence I start with placing this phenomenon in a context: firstly the relationship between body, identity and society is explored, followed by a review of the dominant body ideals we have witnessed since the 1950s and thus placing the ideal body of a woman in 2015 on a historical axis. Moreover I look at the research on online support groups and how these have been discussed within academia – specifically regarding support groups with eating disorders in focus – and relating this to the platform at hand: Instagram. The background chapter is then concluded by a general overview of Instagram as a new social media platform, including Richard M. Perloff’s “Distinctive Attributes of Social Media”. The theoretical framework utilised in this study consists of two different strands: selective exposure and social constructivism. The idea here is to partly use a theory relating to Instagram as media platform and how these young women work with material that is being published on Instagram.The second theory in its turn focuses on the other vital aspect in this thesis: women and the relationship to their bodies. Drawing upon the work of Liz Frost and her socialist feminism perspective, I argue that, what Frost describes as the capitalist manufacture of bodily discontent, can also be seen in the material analysed on #FromSicknessToFitness. More importantly certain kinds of products that are very visible within this group of people I claim have become their badges of affiliation; signalling belonging to this group and being a part of the girls’ identity construction. In order to answer my research questions I used a combination of methods consisting of both quantitative content analysis and interviews. The common denominator for these different methodological approaches was the hashtag #FromSicknessToFitness. Using a coding scheme by Leah Boepple and Joel Kevin Thompson, including variables such as self-pictures, exercise images and food content, 322 Instagram posts published between the 22. -29 of march 2015 were coded in order to get a general overview of the material published under this hashtag and hence have the answer to RQ 1; the type of material published under the hashtag. The results showed that food content was predominant in its frequency (accounting for nearly 60% of the material). This led to a further development of the coding scheme presented by Boepple and Thompson in order to get a closer look at what exactly these food pictures contained. As I studied the material closer I realised that the revolutionary and intriguing part was not the explicit material found in the pictures, but rather the interaction that was taking place on Instagram in the form of comments to the published photos. This became the greatest insight and was further explored during the interviews. In other words, what constitutes the strength of Instagram – its principal virtue and its most valuable feature as a tool in combating eating disorders, is according to my informants its social potential, its properties as a social platform. To find like-minded people and to support each other on this journey, to make friends and even in some cases take these relationships into real life – this is the most appreciated and constructive part of Instagram. Using active selective exposure these girls surround themselves with strengthening material with the ambition to spread positive energy themselves and reach out to others who find themselves in the same situation and show that life is so much more than the illness they all have in common. At the same time my informants did acknowledge the dangers of Instagram and how it can be described as a double-edged tool. Firstly, it can have a counterproductive effect in its focus on the visual, showing beautiful bodies and illustrating extremely healthy lifestyles – images which can trigger a behaviour that goes beyond a healthy lifestyle and moving on to orthorexia or other eating disorders. Moreover the advantage of Instagram as a platform for interaction can without doubt be used to instigate a behaviour similar to that known from proana-websites and communities. However, my informants were not involved in this kind of activities, instead quite on the contrary: they were extremely keen to spread a positive invigorating energy and publish constructive posts. This study is the first one looking into how support groups today have found their way to Instagram, connecting people beyond geographical boundaries, similar to the earlier trends consisting of online support groups and blogs. This is the online platform of 2015. Hence I call for more attention given to these communities and Instagram – both with regard to its potential and dangers.

Jolanda Toivola
MKV, Masteruppsats , vt15
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