Researchers in the United Kingdom and United States found that more time on Facebook could lead to more negative feelings and more comparisons to the bodies of friends (at least among college students).
For the investigation, researchers surveyed 881 college women about their Facebook use, eating and exercise habits, and body image.
Using the data collected, researchers were able to predict how often women felt negatively about their own bodies after looking at someone else’s photos or posts, and how often women compared their own bodies to those of their friends.
The findings also showed that more time spent on Facebook was associated with more negative feelings and more comparisons to the bodies of friends.
They also found that for women who want to lose weight, more time on Facebook led to more attention being paid to physical appearance. This included attention to one’s body and clothing.
Previous studies have examined college or adolescent girls and the effect of Facebook on users’ body image over non-users’. But this is the first study to link time spent on Facebook to poor body image.
“Public health professionals who work in the area of eating disorders and their prevention now have clear evidence of how social media relates to college women’s body image and eating disorders,” said researcher Petya Eckler, Ph.D.
“While time spent on Facebook had no relation to eating disorders, it did predict worse body image among participants.”
“As experts in the field know, poor body image can gradually lead to developing an unhealthy relationship with food. The attention to physical attributes may be even more dangerous on social media than on traditional media because participants in social media are people we know,” said the researchers.
As such, the comparisons to friends are much more relevant and hit closer to home. Researchers believe the body image comparisons made to friends may be just as unrealistic as the images of models and media stars.