Is it possible that the world’s No. 1 social media site could be contributing to another unhealthy condition? Yes, say researchers, who note that young women, especially, who spend a great deal of time on Facebook are more likely to be concerned about body image and, as such, are at risk for eating disorders.
In a newly released study, researchers analyzed how much time 960 female college students spent on the social media site. They also gauged how much “likes” were important to them and whether they ever “untagged” pictures of themselves.
Of the group examined, more than 95 percent said they used Facebook regularly. Of that large group, participants said they typically spent about 20 minutes per visit on the site, for a total of an hour a day.
‘Facebook merges powerful peer influences with broader societal messages regarding women’s appearances’
As reported by HealthDay News:
Those who spent more time on Facebook were more likely to worry about their weight and body shape, and to have eating disorders, the investigators found. These women also tended to place greater importance on receiving comments and “likes” on Facebook, frequently untagged photos of themselves, and compared their photos to pictures of friends.
Researchers published their study online recently in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
Still, the research team also suggested that perhaps Facebook could also help young women learn more about the responsible uses of social media sites, so they can develop a better self-image and thus avoid eating disorders.
The study found an association between the amount of time spent on Facebook and a potentially higher risk of eating disorders among college-aged women, but it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.
“Facebook merges powerful peer influences with broader societal messages that focus on the importance of women’s appearance into a single platform that women carry with them throughout the day,” study author Pamela Keel, of the department of psychology at Florida State University, said in a news release.
“As researchers and clinicians attempt to understand and address risk factors for eating disorders, greater attention is needed to the emerging role of social media in young people’s lives,” Keel said.
It’s not the first time that overindulgence in Facebook has been identified as a potential health risk.
Jealousy, envy, dislike
According to Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and medical contributor to Fox News, a pair of recent studies have shown that Facebook is “psychologically toxic” and that it contributes to psychological problems in users.
“My theory about Facebook is based on my observations that posting hundreds of photos of one’s self is an ego-inflating, narcissistic drug and that having hundreds or thousands of false ‘friends’ is extremely similar to the sensation of getting high. Pot and Facebook both make you feel better about your life while distracting you from really making your life better,” Ablow writes.
Specifically, he notes, one study from the University of Michigan released in 2013 shows that the more that young people — whose average age was 20 — used Facebook, the worse it made them feel after logging off. And the more they used Facebook over a two-week period, the less satisfied they reported being about their own lives.
“It is critical to note that the researchers made sure the study participants were not turning to Facebook because they were already upset. Using Facebook made them sad,” Ablow pointed out.
The second study, from the University of Birmingham in Britain, found that people who share photos on Facebook tend to experience a decrease in intimacy and closeness in their relationships. Self-aggrandizement on Facebook — advertising your attractiveness, sense of humor or special interests — tends to actually alienate your “friends,” who wind up being resentful of you, the researchers found.
“Facebook will turn out to be, in my opinion, a recognized public health hazard of the most significant kind,” Ablow writes. “In a very substantial way, it is negatively impacting the mental health of Americans and others around the world — particularly adolescents, teens and young adults.”