Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Psychological Science (MSPS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Dawn Witherspoon

Second Advisor

Dr. Paul Fuglestad


The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted the life of every individual. Stay-at-home orders imposed to control the spread of the virus have only led to an increase in social media use to stay connected with others. College students were particularly affected by the measures put in place to control the spread of COVID-19 due to geographical, social, and economic changes (Aristovnik et al., 2020). The stress caused by these changes can increase eating disorder symptoms (Lacey et al., 1986) and exercise behaviors (Kim & McKenzie, 2014). The aim of the study is to observe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on how social media use influences eating disorders and exercise behaviors. The current study proposed that due to the pandemic, increased social media use will lead to increased eating disorder symptoms and affect exercise motivation. One hundred and ninety primarily Caucasian (n = 114), female (n = 169) students aged 18-45 were assessed on social media use and responded to the Eating Disorders Examination Questionnaire 6.0, the Exercise Motivation Inventory 2, the Fear of COVID-19 Scale, the Perceived Stress Scale, and the U.S. Household Food Security Scale. The results revealed that fear of COVID-19, EDE-Q score, and exercise motivation did not differ between high and low Instagram users. Furthermore, fear of COVID-19 did not moderate the relationship between Instagram use and EDE-Q score or exercise motivation. Although non-significant, these results indicate that there is a need for further investigation, specifically in the US, for how the pandemic has impacted the lives of college students.