Investigating the Influencer – Library Workshop

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“Abs in 2 weeks!”

So…the fitness instructor in me knows that is pretty much impossible. But when I see that on Instagram, why can’t I resist taking a closer look? All I can say is that we are “first and foremost emotional creatures.” (

During the winter term, my colleague (Chelsea) and designed and delivered a workshop on critical thinking as it applies to health and wellness information on social media. In planning this workshop we did a deep dive into the research and had some great conversations on what to highlight in this very rich topic. We pared down our learning objectives to the following:

  • Recognizing the importance of “healthy skepticism” when interacting with health & wellness content on social media​
  • Learning how to verify health & wellness information​
  • Reflecting on the use of social media and your motivations for following accounts​

We knew that the traditional library skills that we teach could be applied to health/wellness advice on social media and felt that there could be great potential in applying the skills to something that many students engage with on a daily basis.

In the session, we talked about the importance of following accounts with credentials and expertise, verifying claims for accuracy, and being aware of the emotional, physical and financial risks of taking advice from some (not all) wellness influencers.

One of the biggest takeaways that we hoped students would finish the session with was to take the time to reflect on how social media made them feel. One of the research studies that we used noted that 43% of individuals who engaged with “fitspiration” content reported high or very high levels of psychological distress (compared with 20% in the general population. (see citation below) It can defeat the purpose of seeking out health/wellness content to finish by feeling even worse about ourselves!

We had some great discussions with the students in the chat and by using our mentimeter polls. This topic seemed to resonate with them and they even had questions that we would love to explore in a future workshop, such as what are the demographics of wellness influencers?

Putting together this workshop gave me the opportunity to reflect on the things that I post on Instagram and think about creating a more positive space for anyone who follows me. Even with my experience as a librarian, I get caught up in trying to make things look beautiful and I get excited when something is well-received. At the end of the day, we are emotional creatures and it is easy to be drawn into the promises of health and wellness that we find online.

Here are our slides – would love to hear about any other similar workshops happening out there at other libraries!

Raggatt, Michelle et al. “‘I Aspire to Look and Feel Healthy Like the Posts Convey’: Engagement with Fitness Inspiration on Social Media and Perceptions of Its Influence on Health and Wellbeing.” BMC public health 18.1 (2018): 1002–1002. Web.

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