Study: Facebook Use Related To Eating Disorders

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File photo of Facebook. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

File photo of Facebook. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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BALTIMORE (CBSDC) – The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt released a study whose finding indicate a connection between the use of Facebook and the negative ways in which a person views their own body.

The center found that 75 percent of Facebook users are unhappy with their bodies, and that 51 percent feel Facebook made them even more self-conscious than before.

Research was conducted by having 600 Facebook users, between the ages of 16 and 40, fill out a survey about their Facebook habits and feelings about different social networking scenarios.

Dr. Harry Brandt, the center’s director, said researchers had first encountered body image concerns related to Facebook use in their eating disorder group, and wanted to see if the phenomenon extended beyond their confines.

“What we found was that a high percentage of people … are significantly concerned with photos posted on Facebook, and with the tagging and de-tagging of photos,” he told CBSDC.

People who answered reportedly spend significant portions of time analyzing both their own bodies and the bodies of others on Facebook.

“It’s not just Facebook – it’s all social media,” Brandt said, adding that the survey did, however, focus on Facebook. “The immediacy of photos, the widespread availability [all contribute.]”

Social networking sites have also created a culture of people who feel the need to be “camera ready” at all times, for fear of being tagged in unflattering photos.

A reported 43 percent of people who participated said that they avoid being photographed if they don’t feel as though they look their very best.

Brandt also noted that photo comments do their part to boost or bust the self-confidence of a person.

“Some [comments] may be positive, but [others not], and the absence of positive comments about a phone may take on its own implications,” he noted.

And it seems Facebook keeps getting worse for image-sensitive people with updates such as Timeline, which allow users to compare and contrast their body and weight changes over the years with ease.

The most disconcerting portion of the survey’s results showed that people will go to drastic measures in order to fix their body image qualms.

Almost one-third of all participants avoid specific foods, food groups or entire food categories in an attempt to lose weight, while 7 percent have engaged in binge-and-purge patterns and 12 say they currently have, or have had, an eating disorder.

“As people spend more time thinking about what’s wrong with their bodies, less time is spent on the positive realm and engaging in life in meaningful and fulfilling ways,” Dr. Steven Crawford, the center’s associate director, said in a press release. “When people become more concerned with the image they project online and less concerned with holistic markers of health in real life, their body image may suffer and they may even turn, or return, to harmful fad diets or dangerous weight-control behaviors.”

Brandt recommended that people be more sensitive to how their online interactions could affect the well-being of another, and ultimately, if these issues are of significant concern to someone, that it may be best to go offline for awhile.

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