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Is Facebook Causing Eating Disorders?

It’s pretty much common knowledge that Hollywood and the media are damaging for our body image and partly responsible for society’s obsession with thinness, but now, according to a recent study, we have Facebook to worry about too.

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. Of those surveyed, 75% of the women and 58% of the men said they’d like to lose some weight.  Surprisingly, 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.

When you’re unhappy with the way you look, it’s easy to avoid mirrors. But it’s becoming pretty tough to go without Facebook. Eight percent of those surveyed log onto Facebook at least once a day. It’s impossible to avoid seeing photos of yourself and your friends. But we’re not just looking — we’re comparing.  With a click you can see what you looked like five years ago, and the comparison can be depressing. Nearly a third of people felt “sad” when comparing photos of themselves and their friends, and 44 percent wished they had the same body or weight as a friend on Facebook.

Steven Crawford, associate director at the center, told 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 then went on to add that Facebook is an influential factor in developing severe eating disorders.

It’s definitely understandable that Facebook can make us more self-conscious.  It’s easy to go through the old online photo albums and compare how we looked over time. Friends tag us in photos and we immediately check them out to see if we should untag ourselves…or is that just me?  I don’t think so because Crawford also added, “Facebook is fueling a “camera-ready” mentality,” “People look at photos before an upcoming high school reunion and decide not to go.” Why? Because they think they don’t look good enough.

Is that enough to lead people to radical diets and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia?  I think it could be if you’re already predisposed to that way of thinking.  To help people who are struggling, The Center has tips for people suffering from Facebook-induced body envy, including subscribing to Facebook pages such as “Adios Barbie” and “End Fat Talk.”

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing lrstewar@gmail.com.