An exploration of student’s perception of the link between social media and body image. Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) as a case study site.
Social media is a major part of daily life for many people. Although there are some positive benefits to using social media, such as, interacting with relatives and friends across the world. It also holds the possibility of some negative elements, such as, increased body image dissatisfaction. This study proposes to acquire, a third level student perspective of social media and its link to body image. The objectives of the study are as follows: •To determine what type of social media student’s use. To examine the extent to which student’s think there is a link between social media and body image. •While also identifying supports, that student’s feel could be put into place to promote positive body image, when using social media.Previous literature reveals that there is a connection between social media and body image. The researcher analysed both international and national research, which helped conduct this study. However, there is a lack of knowledge about how third level students feel about this issue, particularly in Ireland. Therefore, the researcher decided to conduct a case study in the Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT). AIT is located in the midlands of Ireland and the institute attracts people from all areas of the country and internationally. Case studies enable the researcher to closely explore and gain understanding of complex issues, which is a main aspect of this study. The study was conducted using a qualitative approach, consisting of two separate single gender focus groups. The researcher directed one female focus group consisting of four participants, and one male focus group consisting of 4 participants. This study only includes students aged between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, as the dissertation is being completed for a Master of Arts in Child and Youth Studies. The age criteria are is relevant due to the United Nations definition of ‘youth’. The United Nations define ‘youth’, as “those persons between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four years, without prejudice to other definitions by Member States” (United Nations, 2013). The focus groups explored the student’s perception of the connection between social media and body image. The focus groups looked at six different areas. They include: determining if the students use social media, the types of social media they use and the amount of time they spend on social media. While also examining, if there is a connection between social media and body image, determining possible effects and lastly identifying possible solutions, that could be put in place to promote positive body image, when using social media. The results were broken up into five themes and many topics were explored. The results indicated that all participants used social media and felt that there is a strong connection between social media and body image. All of the participants use social media every day and are frequent social media users. Image-based social media such as, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, appeared to be the most common social media platforms, that increased body image dissatisfaction. Students perceptions of body image were explored, and it was found that social media often portrays people with an unrealistic body image. Social comparison was found to be a common theme in students, as they compare how they look and how many likes they get for a picture, to others. Lastly, solutions for promoting positive body image, while using social media was discussed. Based on the results of this study, recommendations will be illustrated by the participants within the study and the researcher. Further exploration of he link between social media and body image would be beneficial.
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