Toronto Metropolitan University
McGuirk_Kaitlyn.pdf (30.82 MB)

Get it, Girl! An exploration of "fitspiration" content on Instagram using visual social semiotics and social comparison theory

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posted on 2022-10-20, 18:03 authored by Kaitlyn McGuirk
By definition “fitspiration” (fit + inspiration) is any message designed to inspire or motivate individuals to achieve their fitness objectives. These messages are usually accompanied by an image of a very fit person performing a physical activity. Fitspiration messages seem to be everywhere with more than 12 million results on Instagram alone. This Master of Professional Communication Major Research Paper (MRP) explores the “fitspiration” phenomenon on the social media platform Instagram by examining 50 images tagged with “#fitspiration” during March and April 2017. Informed and analyzed through multiple methods including content analysis, visual social semiotics theory, discourse analysis and social comparison theory, this report seeks to answer the research questions: (1) What are the characteristics of “fitspiration” images on Instagram that are aimed at young women? (2) What messages do these media images convey? (3) What are the implications of these messages on young women? The results of this study suggest that the “thin-ideal” that is embedded in western culture still dominates social media and the “fitspiration” community, which continues to negatively impact young women’s self-esteem and body image. However, based on the findings there is a shift to the “strong is the new skinny” mentality where the captions and comments of each image are overwhelmingly positive in nature with little to no existence of destructive discourses. In an attempt to lessen the effects of such idealized and unrealistic portrayals of female bodies on young women there must be this continued presence of constructive messages and conversations on social media, coupled with education and social media literacy for young females.





  • Master of Professional Communication


  • Professional Communication

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • MRP