As you’re reading this, chances are your Facebook profile is waiting for you on the next tab. You probably think browsing Facebook is pretty harmless, but is that really the case?
Consider the constant comments, status updates, and images you are subjected to, and have little control over, on a daily basis…
“l look so fat in that photo.” “You don’t even look like you’ve just had a baby.” “I need to hit the gym.” “Totally pigged out today… starting my diet tomorrow.” “Just ran 10 miles.” “Wow… you look amazing.”
And on it goes… the egocentric, narcissistic world of Facebook!
From a body image point of view, one of the main problems with Facebook is that it allows for constant comparisons over physical appearance.
Perhaps you can relate to millions of users who have been horrified by an unflattering photo going up on Facebook. Whether it’s a picture showing your bingo wings, a double chin, or a little muffin top, there’s no denying, Facebook can make you feel more self conscious than anything else.
I wouldn’t describe myself as particularly “body conscious,” but I have certainly cringed at photographs which “friends” have put up on Facebook in the past. And, I’ve wondered what possessed that person to put such an image up for the world to see.
Even so, it’s difficult to imagine a world without Facebook. Just like any addiction, the idea of closing your account is like going “cold turkey.” It feels like you simply won’t survive the first few weeks.
But, consider the effect Facebook may be having on you, and you may think the effort worthwhile…
Center For Eating Disorders Body Image Survey
The Center for Eating Disorders, at Sheppard Pratt, looked at Facebook users behavior, examining how social media is influencing body image and awareness of body size.
They surveyed 600 Facebook users aged between 16 to 40, and the results prove the toxic effects of self-criticism and body comparison, which extend far beyond teenage years.
Here are some of the survey results:
1. People spend a lot of time on Facebook and in doing so, spend a lot of time analyzing their bodies and the bodies of others:
- 80 percent of respondents log into Facebook at least once a day. Of that, 61 percent say they login several times a day.
- 51 percent of respondents said that seeing photos of themselves make them more conscious about their body and weight.
- 51 percent agree that they often find themselves comparing their life to that of their friends when they read status updates and see pictures posted.
- 32 percent said they feel sad when comparing Facebook photos of themselves to their friend’s photos.
- 44 percent wish they had the same body or weight as a friend when looking at photos.
- 37 percent feel they need to change specific parts of their body when comparing their bodies to friend’s bodies in photos.
2. Facebook appears to be fueling a “camera ready” mentality among the general public:
- 44 percent said they are always conscious when attending social events that photos of them might get posted on Facebook.
- 43 percent will avoid having people photograph them at a social event if they don’t feel they look their best.
(You can view the body image survey results in full, by clicking on the link)
Fitbit Body Image Survey
A further survey, by Fitbit, revealed a similar story.
They found 20 percent of Brits feel more body conscious, due to the possibility of being tagged in a photo on Facebook (or other social network).
A third admit to having de-tagged themselves, feeling embarrassed to appear fat and unattractive to their Facebook friends.
In fact, when asked about getting in shape for a holiday, “Facebook shame” came out higher (17%) than a more traditional trigger to losing weight, like fitting into a favourite summer dress (16%).
Of course, the reverse is also true. When we feel good about how we look, we are more willing to be posted across the social networks — 40 percent more likely, in fact, to share photos of ourselves when feeling content with our body shape.
Does Facebook Contribute To Poor Body Image?
These statistics are pretty sad, but I think it’s a big leap to say Facebook is the main cause of low self-esteem, as some have done.
I certainly do agree, however, that seeing photos of yourself and others on Facebook can make you more conscious about your body and weight, and more dissatisfied with your lot in general.
As Dr. Steven Crawford, from The Center for Eating Disorders, says, it is the constant access we have to social sites like Facebook, that make it unique, and as a result, potentially problematic:
We live in a society where there is a pervasive and normalized discontent for our bodies. The concerns with Facebook and online social media sharing, however, are unique. There is immediate and constant access to it. Even when you are by yourself or home alone, you have hundreds of Facebook friends (and their photos) online. This can remind you of what you don’t like about your own body. Additionally, people seem more willing to post negative comments online when they might think twice about saying them in person.
It is probably safe to say that the vast majority of Facebook users don’t realize they are contributing to someone’s body-hate.
I would suggest that most people think they are actually being positive or polite when commenting on someone’s appearance in a photograph, for example. However, such comments can fuel body image issues, if they are already present.
It’s important to realize that when you comment about your own body on Facebook (whether negatively or positively), it sends a general message about your views or stereotypes regarding weight and beauty to all your Facebook friends as well. Although you may do so lightheartedly, in those who are susceptible, this can further perpetuate negative thoughts about body image.
5 Ways To Foster A Positive Body Image Online
1. Focus On Real Life
Try to be more concerned about your health and body in real life, rather than the image you are projecting about yourself online.
2. Take Time Off
Take a long, hard look at how your online behavior is effecting your outlook.
If you find yourself unable to escape feelings of jealousy, sadness or comparison while online, consider taking a break from Facebook by logging off for some time. Then, assess how your attitude changes.
Or, think about deleting your account completely.
3. Consider “Un-friending”
If you have “friends” whose comments are unsavory in some way, unfriended or hide them. It is your timeline, you do not need to read or see things which are unhealthy or have a negative effect on your mental attitude.
I believe in removing as much negativity from my life as possible, if that means deleting a so-called “friend,” or hiding their status updates because they are unhelpful, then I’ll do that.
4. Notice Criticism
Realize when you are being overly critical of yourself and others while on Facebook and other social networking sites. Then, make an attempt to stop such thinking immediately.
5. Restrict Comments On Appearance
If your comments regularly focus on someone’s weight or appearance, try to restrict yourself to commenting only on life events, hobbies, and interests.
Share Your Thoughts
What do you think — does Facebook affect how you view yourself? Do you feel pressure to always look ‘camera ready’ in case a photo ends up online?
On a news articles relating to this issue, one commenter said,
I think the positive gratification that people get from using Facebook outweigh any of the negatives. People get instant grafitication and accololades when people “like” their status update or “like” or comment on their photos. These feelings boost them up!
Do you agree?
Note: If you enjoyed this article, sharing it (on Facebook, etc) is a great way to say ‘thank you’.