Several studies have appeared in the last year – some specifically citing Facebook – each arguing how various aspects of social media promotes a negative body image among users.
A negative body image is a distorted self-perception correlating body size and shape as a sign of personal failures. This personal stigma in turn can encourage depression and eating disorders – especially among young women.
One study, performed by researchers from the American University in Washington D.C., asked 103 adolescent girls to complete surveys inquiring about their Facebook usage and about their body image.
Researchers analyzed the information regarding how long they spent on Facebook, and how it had the greatest influence on how they felt about themselves afterward.
They found the teen girls who allocated the most time to photo-related activities were more likely to internalize a thin ideal, succumb to self-objectification, and were dissatisfied with their weight along with an unhealthy drive to be thin.
Another linked anxiety over Facebook photos to eating disorders. Researchers in that study evaluated 960 female college students, assessing the amount of time spent on social media sites, how important “likes” were, and whether or not they untagged photos of themselves.
The respondents who reported spending more time on Facebook demonstrated a higher incidence of superficial, appearance-focused behaviors, a greater occurrence of diet pathology, and were more likely to hold a greater significance in receiving comments and likes on their status updates. They were also more prone to un-tag photos they deemed unflattering.
Now it appears yet another study has emerged, suggesting Facebook is contributing to the lessening self-esteem and body image of social media users.
Akin to the previous studies, this research found more time on the social networking site was tied to a greater likelihood of having a negative self-image.
The study, presented recently at the International Communication Association annual conference, in Seattle, surveyed 881 female college students.
They were asked questions about their Facebook use within the past month, including how often they visited the site and how long they typically spent there.
The participants were also asked about their eating habits, body image, current weight, ideal weight, and class rank.
The average weight in the study was 149 pounds. The majority noted a desire to weigh 20 pounds less than their actual weight – defining their ideal at 130 pounds.
The majority of the college students spent an average of 80 minutes per day on Facebook, explains Health Day, most engaging in reading news feeds and viewing shared photos.
Per the results: odds increase that individuals will compare themselves with others the longer they engage on social media; more so if the person is entertaining preexisting thoughts about weight loss.
In contrast, women who wanted to gain or maintain their weight did not express having a negative body image after logging on to the social networking site.
While the study found an association between Facebook use and negative body image, it was not designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.