Facebook May Amplify Eating Disorders and Poor Body Image

By Hanes, Stephanie | The Christian Science Monitor, March 3, 2012 | Go to article overview

Facebook May Amplify Eating Disorders and Poor Body Image


Hanes, Stephanie, The Christian Science Monitor


A new study of Facebook users finds that using the social networking site may lead to poor body image and low self esteem, amplifying eating disorders: A majority are more conscious of body and weight.

Facebook may be promoting poor body image among its users, a new report says, with more than half of survey-takers admitting that they feel more conscious of their weight because of the social networking site, and only a quarter saying they are happy with their body.

The report, which was based on an online survey of 600 Facebook users and was conducted by The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt in Baltimore, also found that 32 percent of users feel sad when comparing Facebook photos of themselves to those of their friends, that 37 percent feel they need to change specific parts of their body when comparing their photos to others', and that 44 percent wish they had the same body or weight as a friend when looking at the photos. Even doctors at the mental health institution were surprised by the intensity of the survey's findings.

"We've known for a long time that people in our culture were dissatisfied with their body," said Harry Brandt, director of The Center for Eating Disorders. "But the degree of dissatisfaction really surprises me."

Dr. Brandt said that while body image problems are nothing new in our society, he and colleagues suspected that Faceook might be amplyifing the obsession with thin. He said they were hearing Facebook-related concerns from many of their eating disorder patients, and decided to commission the research, which polled Facebook users ranging in age from 16 to 40, to find out whether these concerns also existed in the wider population. The results, he said, returned a clear "yes."

While the studies showed that females were more slightly likely than males to worry about and compare their bodies to their friends', the differences were usually within 10 percentage points; Facebook, it seems, can make everyone insecure.

"Facebook is making it easier for people to spend more time and energy criticizing their own bodies and wishing they looked like someone else," he said in a statement released along with the survey. …

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