Media Effects Research Lab - Research Archive

Am I Just Eating Because I’m Bored? TikTok’s #Quarantine15’s Influence on Body Image and Intent to Diet and Exercise

Student Researcher(s)

Maranda Berndt (Ph.D Candidate); Magdalayna Drivas (Masters Candidate); Christopher Doty (Ph.D Candidate)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

INTRODUCTION
The 2020 global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused many individuals to increase their media use, including a 23% increased use in social media (Watson, 2020). TikTok is one of the social media apps that’s popularity has increased, due to the interactivity of the app, which rewards users for participating in viral trends (Tidy & Galer, 2020).
The #Quarantine15 hashtag emerged as a reference to the weight people were gaining during COVID-19 lockdowns, where many individuals partook in overeating or cooking more often due to being home all the time. It is a play on the phrase “freshman 15”, which is used to describe the weight gained during the first year of college. A survey in the United Kingdom found that about 53% of adults felt worse about their body image during the lockdown, sharing that they felt that social media pressured them to focus on weight loss due to the common conversations about weight gain (“Body Image”, 2020). Body image is not only a stable trait, but it can also be a state that changes due to the contexts surrounding a situation (Cash, 2002; Cash et al., 2002). When it comes to body image, individual’s often compare themselves to others’ looks and abilities (Festinger, 1954). That comparison also extends to individuals presented in the media or social media (Haferkamp & Krämer, 2011), and when an individual finds those comparisons attractive, they may try to imitate the behaviors in order to attain those abilities and looks that they find admirable (Bandura, 1994; Holmstrom, 2004).
This study looks the relationship between positivity level of #Quarantine15 videos on TikTok and an individual’s level of state body image, and their level of intent to imitate those behaviors shown in the videos (e.g., dieting and exercise).


RESEARCH QUESTIONS
RQ1: For individuals, controlling for age, gender, and trait body appreciation, what is the relationship between the positivity level of a #Quarantine15 TikTok video, and the level of state body appreciation?
RQ2: For individuals, controlling for age, gender, and trait body appreciation, what is the relationship between positivity level of a #Quarantine15 TikTok video, and the level of intent to diet and exercise?
RQ3: For individuals, controlling for age, and trait body appreciation, what is the relationship between gender and state body appreciation and the level of intent to diet and exercise?

 

METHOD
After receiving IRB review approval, participants were recruited through MTurk and social media sites and completed a brief online survey distributed via Qualtrics after being randomly assigned to a video condition. The video conditions included videos that talked/viewed body image positively, negatively, neutrally, and a control group. The online survey included basic demographic questions, and measured participants state body appreciation, intention to diet and exercise, and their trait body appreciation. The final sample (N = 252) included (n = 127) females, and (n = 125) males. The average age was, and the sample was mainly white (n = 211).

 

RESULTS
Multiple ANCOVAs were deployed in JMP to analyze the relationship between the variables. For RQ1, the results showed that there was a significant relationship between positivity levels of #Quarantine15 videos and state body appreciation (p < .05). For RQ2, an ANCOVA revealed there was no significant relationship between positivity levels of #Quarantine15 videos, and the intent to diet (p = .51) and exercise (p = .71). A significant interaction effect was found between condition and trait body appreciation, with the negative #Quarantine15 video condition having the highest interaction (p < .05). ANCOVA results for RQ3 showed a significant relationship between males and females on intent to diet (p < .01), but no significant relationship between males and females for state body appreciation (p = .54) or intent to exercise (p = .98).

 

CONCLUSIONS/DISCUSSIONS
This study found that positivity levels of #Quarantine15 videos are related to an individual’s state body appreciation. However, those who were in the control group seemed to have the highest state body appreciation, meaning that their state body appreciation was the highest when they were not exposed to a video showing/discussion body image at all. The study also found that there was no relationship between positivity levels of #Quarantine15 videos and the intent to diet or exercise. Which could mean that even though an individual’s body image can be affected by a video, does not mean that they will go as far as imitating that behavior. The interaction effect found between condition and trait body appreciation went against prior research because it found that individuals who watched videos discussing body image negatively, had better body image than the other conditions. Finally, this study showed that gender did not play a significant role in the relationship between gender and state body appreciation. This goes along with current research, which states that males are just as affected by body image as females. This study also found that males had greater intent to diet than females, which goes against current research. Prior research has found that females’ intent to diet is often more affected by thin-ideal media than males (Harrison, 2000; McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2001), and males' intent to exercise is more affected (Agliata & Tantleff-Dunn, 2004), however, this study did not find a significant relationship between gender and intent to exercise. These findings are important because they help further the understanding of the influence media can have on how individuals view themselves and appreciate their bodies. 

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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