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Mariah travels often to speak about her research and would be delighted to be invited to your campus! IF her research aligns with your department's interest and you'd like her to visit, please email her at Additionally, if you do not have access to the below manuscripts and would like to utilize them in your own teaching or research, please email Mariah at for pdf copies. 
Recently Published:

Wellman, M.L. & Holton, A.E. (2022). Instagram. In Borchard, G.A. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Journalism: 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. DOI: 10.4135/9781544391199.n205.
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Black Squares for Black Lives? Performative Allyship as Credibility Maintenance for Social Media Influencers on Instagram

In June 2020, millions of Instagram users shared black squares along with hashtags including #BlackOutTuesday and #BlackLivesMatter before pausing their social media content for the day. At first in solidarity with the music industry, the black squares were co-opted by uninformed users hoping to show their support of Black Lives Matter in the wake of the murder of George Floyd while in police custody. Through 20 interviews with social media influencers about the #BlackLivesMatter discourse occurring on Instagram in the summer of 2020, I argue that for many influencers, the posting of black squares was performative allyship utilized strategically to build and maintain credibility with followers. Influencers were unable to genuinely merge their existing brand image with the Black Lives Matter movement long-term, resulting in the memeification of social justice activism and no substantial progress toward diversity, equity, and inclusion within the wellness creator industry on Instagram.

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Previvorship Posting: Why Breast Cancer Previvors Share Their Stories on Social Media

Research on previvors, individuals with a genetic predisposition to develop hereditary breast and ovarian cancer but who have not yet been diagnosed with breast or other cancers, examines online information gathering and community support to alleviate uncertainty. However, research exploring online content published by previvors themselves is limited. We examined content published to Instagram and TikTok to explore how breast cancer previvors discussed their lived experience which included, but was not limited to, genetic testing, diagnosis with a BRCA1/2 pathogenic (i.e. risk-increasing) variant, the decision to undergo preventative measures like surgery and/or reconstruction, and how they cope after diagnosis and surgical procedures. In the findings, we explicate how many previvors feel a responsibility to share their authentic experience on social media in order to help others and mitigate their own feelings of uncertainty. This study offers a snapshot of how women are sharing breast cancer previvorship and building social connections with each other online.

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Social Media Influencer Rhetoric and The Domestication of Health at Every Size on Instagram

Weight-inclusive approaches such as Health at Every Size® (HAES®) that once were used primarily by scientists or other health experts are more frequently being taken up by lay audiences. Most notably, popular members of online communi- ties known as social media influencers rely on principles of HAES® to spread weight-neutral rhetoric across platforms like Instagram. Analyzing how influenc- ers domesticate, or make their own, the specific science-based principles of HAES® warrants exploration. In this study, I draw from an analysis of 20 Insta- gram accounts run by influencers to explicate how domestication occurs within the body positive and weight-inclusive community. The findings suggest three pri- mary patterns through which domestication occurs: anecdotal narratives and per- sonalization, science and education, and social justice. I argue these influential users domesticate HAES® by drawing on their own education, life experience, and personal identity while upholding the core norms of the influencer industry: authenticity and credibility.

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Dodging negativity like it's my freaking job: Marketing postfeminist positivity through Beachbody fitness on Instagram

During the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic, negativity circulated widely on social media; however, multilevel marketing (MLM) distributors selling fitness programs on Instagram remained blithely positive. In this article, we build upon Katrine Meldgaard Kjær 2019 assertion that “dieting [is] an affective practice” in the context of fitness influencer marketing and follow Kim Toffoletti and Holly Thorpe 2020 suggestion that affect circulates throughout women’s posts about fitness online. We explore how positivity becomes an important marketing device for Instagram fitness influencers in general and how, during periods of intense negative affect and economic uncertainty, such as during the first three months of the pandemic, the maintenance of positivity comes to not only signify the upkeep of proper postfeminist dispositions, but also to provide these influencers and their audiences with the symbolic means to ward off an illness that is circulating literally as a virus and figuratively as negativity. Turning to Beachbody coaches’ Instagram accounts, we illustrate how coaches’ calls to preserve one’s health, increase one’s income, and maintain control in the face of precarity require that they “dodge” the negativity associated with the virus and explicate how this positive “dodge” is tied to larger trends in postfeminist fitness influence online. 

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What it means to be a bodybuilder: Social media influencer labor and the construction of identity in the bodybuilding subculture.

While recent research has explored influencers within the fashion, beauty, fitness, and travel industries, few studies have examined influencers within physique sports like bodybuilding. Drawing on observation, informal interviews, and semistructured interviews with members of Gold’s Gym Venice, this study analyzes how bodybuilders, trainers, and influencers define labor and how they construct their identities as members of the bodybuilding subculture. The findings suggest bodybuilders and trainers believe influencers are not authentic members of the subculture and instead are sexualized laborers. The findings also explicate a misunderstanding among bodybuilders and trainers about how social media use is a productive form of labor for influencers. Influencers attempt to insert themselves into the subculture while bodybuilders and trainers simultaneously attempt to discredit their digital labor in favor of the physical. Gold’s Gym Venice connects these stakeholders by offering both a symbolic and historical credibility, validating forms of labor through subcultural belonging.

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Trans-mediated parasocial relationships: Private Facebook groups foster influencer-follower connection.

This essay offers an extension of the theory of parasocial relationships deemed trans-mediated parasocial relationships in which popular users rely on a specific social media platform to maintain relationships with followers previously kindled on another platform. The extension calls for scholars to pay attention to which platforms influential users are moving between and how the affordances of particular platforms help or hinder the growth of existing relationships. To explicate this theory extension, the researcher applied a multi-method approach to explore a private Facebook group run by Australian social media influencer, Sarah’s Day. The researcher investigates how members use the group to communicate their thoughts, seek support, ask questions, and share critiques of themselves and others. In this case, an influencer who originally fostered connections with followers on YouTube and Instagram built a self-sustaining Facebook group to maintain those relationships through little effort of her own, continually benefitting from follower labor.

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Ethics of Authenticity: Social media influencers and the production of sponsored content

Media coverage of influencer marketing abounds with ethical questions about this emerging industry. Much of this coverage assumes influencers operate without an ethical framework and many social media personalities skirt around the edges of legal guidelines. Our study starts from the premise that influencer marketing is not inherently unethical but, rather, the ethical principles guiding production of sponsored content are not well understood. Through a case study of the travel and tourism media industry, our findings demonstrate that influencers use the concept of authenticity as an ethical framework when producing sponsored content. This ethics of authenticity is premised on two central tenets: being true to one’s self and brand and being true to one’s audience. This framework puts the influencers’ brand identity and relationship with their audience at the forefront while simultaneously allowing them to profit from content designed to benefit brands and destinations.

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1983 - Stuart Hall visits Australia and North America

Throughout 1983 Cultural Studies continued to spread outside the United Kingdom, spurred by Stuart Hall’s tour of Australia and parts of the United States where he presented lectures connecting current ideas of what it means to study culture in often disparate and intense political climates across the globe. Myriad publications published in 1983 provide insight into how Cultural Studies circulated among scholars in varying disciplines while still in its infancy. This article situates Cultural Studies primarily within a North American context focusing on the pivotal event of the year: the teaching institute held prior to the 1983 conference at the University of Illinois where Hall delivered what would be eight influential lectures in the field of Cultural Studies. Further, I provide insight into an understudied conference held in Australia where Hall’s impact led to the birth of an Australian Cultural Studies journal. Finally, I provide an overview of some of the pivotal publications of the year, connecting ideas of hegemony, power and dominance, reflexivity and Marxism within a western context.

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Professionalizing and profiting: The rise of intermediaries in the social media influencer industry

This study examines the relationship between travel influencers (e.g., bloggers and social media personalities) and destination marketers within the changing travel and tourism industry. Through in-depth interviews, observations, and document analysis, we explore the tensions between travel influencers and destination marketers that shape the way travel is promoted, labor is compensated, and professional structures are negotiated. We examine a new breed of travel and tourism worker—intermediaries who seek to professionalize and formalize the relationship between influencers and destination marketers while simultaneously solidifying their own role within the industry. Intermediaries promote and facilitate relationships based on structured flexibility—formalized agreements designed to satisfy a brand’s campaign goals yet open enough for influencers to pursue their unique needs. By examining the relationships between digital content creators, destination marketers, and third-party intermediaries, this article provides insight into how digital media industries negotiate the tension between participation and control.

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