We already know how damaging Hollywood and the media are for our body image and our society’s unhealthy obsession with being thin. But now, according to a new study, Facebook is also fueling that “skinny is better” idealism, so much so that it’s considered a culprit for severe eating disorders.
The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt in Maryland surveyed 600 Facebook users, ages 16 to 40 about their body image and self-esteem. More than half said that Facebook makes them more self-conscious about their bodies and weight. And, surprisingly enough, men were some of those with the most negative feelings.
Of those surveyed, 75% of the women and 58% of the men said they’d like to lose some weight. But it was the men who were more likely to post a negative comment about their weight on Facebook, with 40% of them admitting to doing so versus 20% of the women.
Why are we so harsh and judgmental about our own bodies on Facebook? Because apparently, we can’t seem to stop comparing ourselves.
Steven Crawford, associate director at the center, explained to TechNewsDaily:
People are now constantly aware of their appearance, thanks to Facebook. A common reaction is, ‘I need to be thinner’ And it’s that kind of thinking that can lead to hazardous dieting.
He went on to say something that is pretty disturbing:
Facebook is an influential factor in developing severe eating disorders.
Wow. That’s enough to make me want to stop using Facebook. Even if it doesn’t lead to an eating disorder, it’s certainly understandable how Facebook makes us more body-conscious–and not in a good way. It’s really easy to scroll through the online photo albums and compare how we looked year over year. Friends tag us in old high school and college photos when we were perhaps thinner and younger looking. And that can be depressing. In fact, almost one-third of the respondents said they felt “sad” when comparing photos of themselves and their friends.
Facebook is also way too easy for us to compare ourselves to others. Let’s face it, we all tend to post photos when we’re looking our best. We pose for every camera shot now, knowing that all of our online friends could see it. We take photos of ourselves in front of the mirror posing for the shots. And we tend to put only our most flattering ones online. This leads to a lot of comparing the way so-and-so looks to the way we look. According to the survey, 44% wished they had the same body or weight as a friend on Facebook. And that’s just sad.
“Facebook is fueling a “camera-ready” mentality,” Crawford added. “People look at photos before an upcoming high school reunion and decide not to go.”
Why? Because they have this Facebook-envy mentality now. Is that enough to lead people to radical diets and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia? According to Crawford, it is. This is especially worrisome for pre-teen and teen girls who are so vulnerable to peer pressure and body image issues.
The answer doesn’t necessarily lie in telling people to quit using Facebook, because that will likely never happen. It does lie in hoping more of us can be “real” on Facebook and post more real-life photos and not so many posed, “perfect” ones. It also lies in avoiding any negative body image talk because that just fuels more feelings of inadequacy for everyone.
The bottom line: Be OK with who you are and how you look and don’t feel the need to compare your body to others on Facebook.