New Study: Can Facebook Cause Eating Disorders?

Mar 28, 2014

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Users frequently on Facebook tend to share a lot: opinions, vacation pictures, party videos, advice, and selfies. A recent study, however, suggests they share even more: a greater chance of eating disorders.

Pamela K. Keel, a psychology professor at Florida State University, led research that studied 960 women in college. Studies show that more time spent on Facebook correlates with greater levels of eating disorders.

The research conveyed that women who focus more on the amount of “likes” and comments their posts receive as well as compare their pictures to those of friends are those with the highest levels of eating disorders.

“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,” Keel said.

There have been studies in the past that suggested a relationship between social media and eating disorders. This study, however, is first to reveal that even 20 minutes spent on Facebook actually impacts women’s worries about shape and weight, ultimately increasing anxiety and contributing to the chance of disordered eating.

This insight is powerful because of the women who participated in the study, over 95 percent use Facebook. These women check their accounts multiple times a day, each visit being at least 20 minutes. This easily adds up to at least an hour each day on the site, Keel suggests.

Researches have known that social influences from peers and traditional media greatly affect the risk of eating disorders. Facebook combines these two sources, making it a dangerous combination.

“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,” Keel said.

“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 said.

The study helps create opportunities to decrease the risk for eating disorders. Facebook itself could encourage users to put a stop to the “fat talk” women participate in.

Net Nanny can also help put a stop to negative commenting. It prevents the dangerous activity through monitoring posts, pictures and friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn.