Effects of instagram sports posts on the athletic motivation of female elite athletes: Do they inspire or backfire?
The social networking site Instagram provides users with an abundance of photos and information in many domains including sports. The posts are often intended to inspire and motivate users. We argue that the display of success and failure of professional athletes may influence elite athletes’ own sports ambitions. Research has shown that exposure to positive ingroup stereotypes and exposure to negative outgroup stereotypes can increase performance (i.e., the stereotype boost effect and the stereotype lift effect, respectively). Based on this research, we conducted three experiments in two different cultural contexts. In all three experiments, we examined whether Instagram posts that showed either ingroup members’ success or outgroup members’ failure influenced athletic motivation, self-efficacy, and sports-related behavioral intentions of female elite athletes. Experiment 1 (n = 117) was conducted in Germany, whereas Experiments 2 (n = 137) and 3 (n = 143) were conducted in Norway. Results showed that in Germany, participants’ athletic motivation and self-efficacy was highest when they were exposed to failing outgroup members (Exp. 1); however, this was not the case in Norway (Exp. 2). In contrast, only Norwegian participants who were exposed to successful ingroup members reported a significant increase in their athletic motivation, but there were no effects regarding self-efficacy and sports-related behavioral intentions (Exp. 3). Boundary conditions for Instagram’s role in motivating users and reasons for the differences between the two cultural contexts are discussed.