Academic journal article Journal of Eating Disorders

A Content Analysis of Thinspiration, Fitspiration, and Bonespiration Imagery on Social Media

Academic journal article Journal of Eating Disorders

A Content Analysis of Thinspiration, Fitspiration, and Bonespiration Imagery on Social Media

Article excerpt

Author(s): Catherine Victoria Talbot[sup.1,3], Jeffrey Gavin[sup.1], Tommy van Steen[sup.1,2] and Yvette Morey[sup.2]

Plain English summary

Thinspiration refers to imagery commonly shared on social media that encourages a user to be thin. Likewise, fitspiration and bonespiration are imagery that inspire a user to be fit and extremely thin, respectively. There has been limited research that has analysed and compared the physical attributes of thinspiration and fitspiration content, and no research has analysed bonespiration. This study aimed to (i) examine the features of bonespiration content in relation to thinspiration and fitspiration; and (ii) explore how fitspiration compared to thinspiration and bonespiration.

The researchers conducted a content analysis on 734 images with hashtags thinspiration, fitspiration, and bonespiration, shared on the social media platforms Twitter, Instagram, and WeHeartit. Similarities were generally observed between thinspiration and bonespiration; however, bonespiration content contained fewer muscles and more bone protrusions, indicating that bonespiration may represent an exaggerated form of thinspiration. Thinspiration and bonespiration contained more thin, objectified bodies when compared to fitspiration, which contained more muscles and muscular bodies. This indicates that fitspiration may represent a less unhealthy form of content when compared to thinspiration and bonespiration. Fitspiration should still be approached with caution, however, as a small group of fitspiration content was identified that was similar to thinspiration with regards to the presence of extremely thin bodies.


It has been well established that the mass media has played an important role in communicating beauty ideals [1], namely the thin beauty ideal commonly assigned to femininity. The mass communication of this body ideal may result an unattainable and unrealistic construction of feminine beauty [2, 3]. Exposure to these thin ideals can result in decreased body satisfaction [4-7]. Decreased body satisfaction is a cause for serious concern, especially for adolescent girls as this group commonly experience body dissatisfaction [8]. Indeed, decreased body satisfaction has been associated with unhealthy weight control behaviours and binge eating [9], eating disorder symptomatology [10, 11], depressive symptoms and low self-esteem [12].

Until recently, studies have focussed upon the effects of exposure to conventional mass media, such as newspapers, magazines and television; however, a growing emphasis is now being placed upon the role of social media and the effect it can have upon young people who are consuming and interacting with it [1]. Perloff [1] has discussed the how social media technologies differ from mass media communication, where social media can provide users with a personal outlet, interactivity, a feeling of presence, and a community of like-minded individuals. On social media, users are both sources and receivers of information, who can actively shape online interaction that enhance autonomy, self-efficacy, and personal agency [13].

When social media users go online they are exposed to a multitude of thin-idealised female bodies on their news feed of celebrities, people within their social network, and bodies of people they do not know. It could therefore be argued that social media, with its constant availability for interaction and content creation, has increased the exposure that young women have to certain body ideals [1].

'Inspirational' imagery is often shared on social media with the aim of inspiring a user to achieve a certain, often unachievable, body type. Thinspiration refers to content posted on social media that inspires a user to be thin, and this is typically achieved through the presentation of images that contain thin bodies, as well as weight loss quotes and techniques [14]. Thinspiration has received considerable attention within the public eye, where this content has been accused of being dangerous and a contributor towards the onset of eating disorders [15, 16]. …

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