It helps to be funny or compassionate: an exploration of user experiences and evaluation of social media micro-intervention designs for protecting body image

Bryony Davies, Mark Turner, Julie Udell

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The possible means and value of embedding micro-interventions into social media to counteract the negative effects of appearance-focused content on female body image are explored. Two studies, with young adult females, examine users' experiences on social media and evaluate users' reactions to prototype digital body image messages embedded within Instagram. In Study One, 20 in-depth interviews explored Instagram users' feelings and experiences of body image online. Thematic analysis was used to assess users’ browsing behaviours and preferences when using Instagram, and to identify those experiences and features of the platform that might be harmful to body image or which might provide opportunities for intervention. In Study Two, the findings of Study One were used to inform the design of potential micro-interventions that could be embedded within everyday use of the platform. Three types of prototype body image message: appearance-related self-compassion, humorous or factual messages were tested with 192 participants. Appearance-related self-compassion and humour-themed messages were rated as being significantly more likely to be read, as being more emotionally positive, and having greater perceived effectiveness for protecting body image than factual messages or neutral images. Such messages were perceived to work by influencing beliefs about appearance ideals and appearance-based comparison.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107999
Number of pages17
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Early online date29 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • Instagram
  • Body image
  • Self-compassion
  • Humour
  • Micro-intervention
  • Appearance comparison
  • UKRI
  • ESRC

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