(Un)Healthy Behavior? The Relationship between Media Literacy, Nutritional Behavior, and Self-Representation on Instagram

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

(Un)Healthy Behavior? The Relationship between Media Literacy, Nutritional Behavior, and Self-Representation on Instagram


  • Claudia Riesmeyer Department of Media and Communication, LMU Munich, Germany
  • Julia Hauswald Department of Media and Communication, LMU Munich, Germany
  • Marina Mergen Department of Media and Communication, LMU Munich, Germany


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Abstract:  The article examines the relationship between media (and health literacy), self-representation, and nutritional behavior of girls who receive nutrition-related content on Instagram. Analyzing this relationship is important because social networks like Instagram can be used as platforms to promote one’s nutritional behavior as expression of personality and to interact with others. Countless meal images are posted, and reach a large number of users. With its visual characteristics, Instagram seems predestined for nutrition-related self-representation. Media literacy, one way of raising young people’s awareness of the risks of media use, encompasses the skills knowledge, evaluation, and action. If media literacy is transferred to the field of health communication, intersections become apparent. Media literacy is understood as a necessary ability to distinguish credible health information from non-credible health information. Both media and health literacy include the skills knowledge, evaluation, and action. Based on 15 qualitative interviews with girls in the age of 13 to 19, results show the relevance of media and health literacy for nutritional behavior. The girls own background information to classify and evaluate received content. They know that content on Instagram is staged and they reflect about negative effects of staged images. However, these images inspire them for their self-representation and nutritional behavior. They adapt what they see into their own eating habits, adopt trends, and thus act against their knowledge of negative consequences to reach the socially expected body image.

Keywords:  health literacy; Instagram; media literacy; nutritional behavior; self-representation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v7i2.1871


© Claudia Riesmeyer, Julia Hauswald, Marina Mergen. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.