A new survey examining the link between Facebook and body image has concluded what you probably already know — obsessively combing the pages of the social networking site can not only lead to an unhealthy fixation on how your ex boyfriend's new girlfriend seems painfully uncool, but also wreak havoc on your body image. So the next time you feel like a fat sack of fat sack of fat just fatly fatting around, blame the time you spend on Facebook. And if you want to be even more specific in your blame assigning, blame your friend who takes a million pictures and tags you in all of them.
The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt (in collaboration, I assume, with The Department of Things Most People Already Suspected) found that not only is Facebook making people more cognizant of their own perceived bodily flaws, it's making them feel like they must be in a photographable state every time they attend a social event. Nearly half of survey respondents reported feeling pressure to be "camera-ready" when attending parties, as pictures from the soiree could very well end up on Facebook. The site can also encourage competitiveness in users — more than half of survey respondents said they often find themselves envying their friends' lives based on their status updates and posted photos. Only a quarter of survey participants reported being happy with their weight, and 12 and 8 percent reported either suffering from an eating disorder or feeling worried they might have an eating disorder, respectively.
Facebook is already a megaphone for everything else, be it baby poop-related posts from your friend from high school or America's duckface epidemic or hilarious public fights between overdramatic divorcing couples who don't understand how to control their account privacy. That Facebook would become a megaphone for everyone's body issues — from neurosis to narcissism — is unsurprising. It's impossible to escape your body without the use of powerful hallucinogens, and nearly impossible to escape the ubiquity of Facebook without the use of powerful willpower. Spending hours perusing the site is a little like spending hours in a mirrored room with your freshman biology class and your current boyfriend's new girlfriend who is determined to conclude that you're not as cool or pretty as she is. Of course it's going to make you feel like shit. And of course its siren song is nearly impossible to resist.
The Center thinks that technology is to blame for the new uptick in crappy self-esteem. Call it keeping up with the Joneses. And the Ramirezes. And the Andersons. And every other person you've ever friend requested.
The omnipresence of peer pressure to be perfect isn't going away, either. Says Dr. Harry Brandt, director for The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt,
Facebook is making it easier for people to spend more time and energy criticizing their own bodies and wishing they looked like someone else. In this age of modern technology and constant access to SmartPhones and the internet, it's becoming increasingly difficult for people to remove themselves from images and other triggers that promote negative body image, low self-esteem and may ultimately contribute to eating disorders.
Eating disorders specialists involved in the study have recommended that users, as a courtesy to each other, refrain from going on and on about their thighs or neck fat or what have you. Users who are sensitive to body negativity should subscribe to pages that promote healthy body image as a way to interrupt the stream of negativity of their news feeds. And if you see another friend talking smack about their own body, Pollyanna the hell out of them by responding with positivity. Example: "I feel so fat today." "But (Friend), you're so good at (math/sex/double dutch)!"
I'd be lying if I said that Facebook didn't make me feel like a big ol' loser sometimes, or that a tagged picture from a low angle could lead to my spending altogether too much of my day thinking about face fat, but it seems like the solution for this problem is a simple one: A diet. From Facebook. Just log off, put your computer in a cupboard or the oven or under your bed where you can't see it, and walk away. Because everything feels better than envy tastes.
Public Survey Conducted by The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt Finds Facebook Use Impacts the Way Many People Feel About their Bodies [CFED @ Sheppard Pratt]