In our corner of the world, summer has officially arrived. New Year’s resolutions are now a distant memory, and warmer weather means it’s #operationbikini season. Or is it?

To find out how the topic of #operationbikini is evolving – and if the pandemic has changed our views on body image – Ipsos Spain experts tracked thousands of online conversations in Synthesio’s AI-enabled consumer intelligence platform. Here’s what we found:

The pandemic marks a shift image-conscious to health-conscious

Historically, mentions of #operationbikini spiked between the months of April and May as people geared up for summertime. But once COVID confined us to our homes, the conversation shifted from a seasonal hot topic to a more constant theme throughout the year.

The pandemic also realigned our priorities and shifted the emphasis away from physical appearance towards other, more important factors – like health. The conversation has evolved from “how to get a beach body” to “how to be healthier” throughout the entire year. We see themes like healthy eating and active lifestyles trending online – and demands from consumers to see more “real bodies” on social media and in advertising.

There’s also an interesting gender disparity in online conversations: although men post more beach body-related content on social media, the majority of messages about physical and aesthetic changes are intended for women. The growing desire to see more realistic bodies on social media, plus this gender bias, is giving way to new trends.

From “Body Shaming” to “Body Positive”

As our mindsets shift towards accepting ourselves rather than changing ourselves, “Body Positive” – the notion of accepting and loving one’s body regardless of appearance – now surpasses “Body Shaming.”

Body Shaming is a term that was coined to be the antithesis of Body Positive; it refers to criticizing bodies that don’t conform to society’s beauty standards. In recent years, the volume of Body Positive content has grown on social media – and though the volume of Body Shaming content has also increased, more than half of the mentions aim at condemning this attitude.

How are brands responding?

Brands are joining the Body Positive movement by giving voices and platforms to diverse bodies. Campaigns from major brands feature models that more accurately reflect who their consumers really are, and what they look like.

But instead of receiving praise, applause, and support, brands are receiving pushback on social media. Many consumers don’t see words aligning with actions and are frustrated by the empty promises of body positive campaigns.

“So ‘prioritizing diversity and inclusion across the board’ means excluding any woman above a size 12/XL (the average women’s size in the US is between a 16 and 18)”

“I feel like size inclusivity shouldn’t be just making things in a bigger size. Like actually design things that are flattering for different bodies”

“plus size swimsuits as a rule have to be ugly”

“Also can some clothing retailer’s understand that not all plus size gals are 6ft tall, some of us are very very short”

We all know the enormous power of the internet: a viral moment can boost brand awareness and reach new audiences in a matter of hours, but a scandal can expose brands and damage a reputation just as quickly. It’s critical for brands to be consistent with what they say and what they do, or they risk achieving the opposite of their intended effect.

Want to learn more about how you can monitor evolving trends and behaviors with social data? Or see what consumers are saying about your brand? Request a demo with our team!