Your Friends Made You Fat
According to the reports, it was likely your friends that made you fat, and now your social networking habits may be wreaking havoc on your body image. Researchers at the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt in Baltimore found that 51 percent of Facebook users said that seeing photos of themselves and others on the popular social networking site made them more conscious of their overall appearance. Only 25 percent of survey respondents indicated they are happy with their bodies, and 12 percent indicated they have or have had an eating disorder. The national survey of 600 Facebook users ages 16 to 40 also revealed there are additional issues associated with the popular media outlet. One, people spend a lot of time on Facebook, and much of that time is spent analyzing their bodies and the bodies of others. Thirty-two percent said they felt sad when they compared photos of themselves to photos of friends, and 37 percent felt they needed to change something about themselves when they compared themselves to others. Two, Facebook appears to have people “camera ready” at all times: 44 percent of respondents indicating that at social functions, they are always conscious that their image might be posted on Facebook, and 43 percent said they wouldn’t allow their picture to be taken if they didn’t feel they looked their best. Three, Timeline is making it easier for people to track changes to their bodies over the years, with 53 percent of users admitting they compare pictures of themselves taken at different times. Four, the majority of people – fully 75 percent – are not happy with their bodies, and a number of them are engaging in dangerous behaviors as a result: 17 percent said they have engaged in binge eating, and seven percent indicated they have purged. Dr. Steven Crawford, associate director of the Center for Eating Disorders, said “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…we hope the results of this survey encourage people to really look at how their online behaviors affect their outlook.” It is important to be cognizant of the potential effects Facebook can have on your self-esteem and body image, and pay attention to the comments you make about others. Also, recognize that other people’s status updates are but one facet of their lives; what we read and what we see on Facebook doesn’t tell the whole story. Facebook users have a tendency to believe their friends’ lives are better and more fulfilling than their own, but we don’t get the whole picture. We only see what our “friends” want us to see. Facebook may be one of many great ways to reconnect with long-lost high school buddies, set up social events, or just keep in touch with people, but it’s important to maintain a rational approach to the social network. Spending a few minutes here and there can be one way to re-energize yourself during a long day, but spending hours on the site may actually reduce your ability to connect with people in the real world. The Center offers some common-sense tips: recognize the effect perusing photos may have on your self-esteem; subscribe or “like” body-positive pages; post positive comments about your friends’ accomplishments rather than make comments about their physical appearance; take a break from Facebook if you are feeling overwhelmed, and use that time to engage in body-positive activities or take up a new hobby. Learn to cook or garden instead of constantly stressing about having to maintain your virtual farm or restaurant, and enjoy Facebook for what it is: a network, not a lifeline.