Enjoy seeing your old high school friends on Facebook? Notice how great they look? Now think about how that may be affecting you. A new study by researchers at Florida State University and published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders suggests that college women who use Facebook frequently are more likely to engage in disordered eating, and those who browsed the social network for just 20 minutes reported more body dissatisfaction than those who used the internet for other purposes.
Researcher Pamela Keel studied 960 college women and found that spending more time on Facebook was associated with higher levels of disordered eating. The study found women who placed greater importance on receiving comments and "likes" on their status updates, untagged photos of themselves, and compared their own photos to friends' posted photos reported the highest levels of disordered eating.
"Facebook provides a fun way to stay connected with friends, but it also presents women with a new medium through which they are confronted by a thin ideal that impacts their risk for eating disorders," Keel said.
One of the primary issues seems to be that those posting on Facebook present ideals, which lead to dissatisfaction among those who do not feel that they can measure up. Every day is a "thin day,” and a “good hair day,” and there is a party every weekend. People do not generally post images that present their physical or social selves in a negative way.
"Social-media platforms like Facebook have a negative impact on their body image," says Claire Mysko, who heads youth outreach at the National Eating Disorders Association. "This is largely due to the way that social media fuels comparison and the pressure to present a 'perfect' version of yourself."
The current study confirms prior research that has implicated Facebook with eating disorders. Last year, researchers from American University determined last year that girls who scan Facebook photos are more likely to report body dissatisfaction. A 2013 University of Michigan study conducted by social psychologist Ethan Kloss found that Facebook use decreases our sense of well-being and "undermines happiness."
The cautionary tale: do not believe everything you see, and know that Facebook could affect the way you see yourself.