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Mental Health Center

Facebook Making Women Feel Bad About Their Bodies?

Study found more time on the social networking site was tied to greater likelihood of negative self-image
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Eckler said many people Photoshop their pictures before posting or they use an app like SkinneePix, which claims to shave pounds off a selfie.

Women who compare themselves to these idealized photos may come away feeling inferior, Eckler noted, adding that she worries that it could set vulnerable young women up for an eating disorder.

"Feeling negatively about yourself and increased body comparison is sort of the first step towards disordered eating. Not in everyone, but that's definitely one of the phases women go through," she said.

This study didn't find a link between full-blown eating disorders and Facebook use, but previous studies have identified some worrisome trends.

In a study published last year in the Journal of Affective Disorders, April Smith, an assistant professor of psychology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and her team surveyed 232 college women and followed them for 30 days to see if their Facebook use influenced how they felt about their bodies.

"We didn't see an increase in eating disorders, per se, but we did see an increase in body image dissatisfaction and disordered eating behaviors," Smith said.

Smith's study found that the frequency of certain kinds of behaviors on Facebook predicted whether the women engaged in binge-eating episodes a month later.

"It's a tendency to really seek social evaluations or negative social evaluations, or to engage in a lot of social comparisons," Smith said.

She said posting negative status updates like "Oh, I just bombed my psych test," or "I can't believe I just ate that whole bag of M&Ms" are ways of testing your friends to see how they'll respond.

The social comparison aspect comes in when women read other people's status updates and are influenced by those updates.

"For example, you see your friend is going to a party that you weren't invited to or got a job that you applied for, and those kinds of upward comparisons have the tendency to make you feel worse about yourself," Smith explained.

Another study found that women who have a tendency to "untag" themselves in photos they consider unflattering could also be suffering from poor body image. So-called "tags" are used to identify by name the people who appear in photos on Facebook.

"I think it's really important for young people to try to be conscientious about their motivations for using Facebook -- their motivations for posting updates and pictures, and also how they feel after using Facebook," Smith said.

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