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Could Facebook Use Lead to Poor Body Image?

Facebook Could Lead to Eating DisordersFacebook is supposed to provide us with an opportunity to stay updated with new and old friends. But Facebook really has less to do with real friends than it does with “Friends” – people who we barely know or used to know.

According to a recent survey of college-aged women, “more time on Facebook could lead to more negative feelings and more comparisons to the bodies of friends.” Now, you might be wondering how Facebook could lead to these negative body image feelings. Well, Facebook gives people plenty of fodder for comparison.  The reason there is insecurity is because you compare your day-to-day and behind-the-scenes with others’ highlight reel.

Each day, hundreds of photos are posted to our news feed. These photos show beautiful, thin women enjoying themselves and loving life. College-aged women are especially likely to post more photos than the average person. These photos give you ample opportunity to compare your looks and body to those of your “Friends”.

While you do see some of these people on a day-to-day basis, others are like celebrities – in that you don’t actually know them, but they had some “proximity” to your life. You start comparing yourself to these “idealized” images, not realizing that they are idealized.

Facebook Is NOT Reality

While Facebook seems like “real life”, it’s actually a fantasy – a fantasy created by the person. No one on social networks posts every photo – surely not the ones that are less than flattering for the person. So what you’re seeing is the edited version. The photos where the subject looks the best; the moments when they’re having the most fun. You’re not seeing the unedited version, where the person may be hanging out in sweats and a t-shirt, or having a crappy day at work.

Not everyone who spends time on Facebook is going to have a negative body image. But those that do check it multiple times a day and who already have problems with their body image may be negatively affected. Also, women who already have body image issues may be drawn to Facebook.

What’s To Be Done

Well, the first thing to do is unplug from Facebook as much as possible, especially if you notice that you are preoccupied with it and compulsive about checking it. As opposed to checking it all day long, limit your time to certain time periods during the day. Another possibility is to have a different perspective on what you’re seeing:

In research from University of Lancashire, women who were prompted to see idealized photographs as fantasy – rather than examples of how to live – came away from the study with a higher regard for their own appearance. Meanwhile, women prompted to take in the same images as social comparison reported the opposite.

Just remember: What you’re seeing on Facebook is only a part of the person, not all of the person. You’re only seeing the curtain. Remember that you’re simply looking at what the person wants you to see – their idealized version. Instead, focus on who you are, what is important to you and your values.

Rachel Levi, LMFT, CEDS, F- IAEDPFounder/Clinical Director
Shoreline Center for Eating Disorder Treatment
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