Facebook isn't all fun and games, unfortunately, with a recent study linking the social network to a higher instance of eating disorders among young women.
Observing the habits of 960 college-aged women, a Florida State University study found that as little as 20 minutes of Facebooking per day could have a detrimental effect on young women's self-perceived body image. Of the women surveyed, 95 percent used Facebook, and responded via self-report surveys to paint a vivid picture of their eating habits. The study, titled Do you "like" my photo? Facebook use maintains eating disorder risk, built on existing knowledge that media representations of idealized female body types, along with peer-associated self-criticism, are key elements in fostering an environment for disordered eating. Facebook, with its unique combination of the two, seems a predictable candidate for perpetuating such dangerous behaviors.
"Now it's not the case that the only place you're seeing thin and idealized images of women in bathing suits is on magazine covers," said the study's lead author, psychology Professor Pamela K. Keel. "Now your friends are posting carefully curated photos of themselves on their Facebook page that you're being exposed to constantly. It represents a very unique merging of two things that we already knew could increase risk for eating disorders."
Keel recommends caution in using Facebook, but also warns that the medium shouldn't be taken as the message. "Facebook provides a fun way to stay connected with friends, but it also presents women with a new medium through which they are confronted by a thin ideal that impacts their risk for eating disorders," she said. "Consider what it is you are pursuing when you post on Facebook. Try to remember that you are a whole person and not an object, so don't display yourself as a commodity that then can be approved or not approved."
Nevertheless, Dr. Keel believes that the social network can be its own savior, with the results of the study recommending that Facebook be targeted as a source of intervention and prevention of eating disorders.
The study was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders on January 24 2014.