The new world of social media now allows nearly everyone across the world to connect. The benefits of this technology are plain, and platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are now demonstrating how worldwide networks of people can bring positive change.
These networks, however, are made up of real human beings. This fact means that all of the problems, insecurities, and darkness of real people will also be brought online.
A new study has now shown that social media is almost certainly contributing to negative body images among females. The research is set to be presented at the 64th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association.
The study looked at over 880 college age woman, surveying them about their Facebook usage habits; their eating and exercise habits; and their body image. Researcher found that the women were more negative toward their own bodies after looking at photos and posts on Facebook. This effect had been shown in previous studies, but the new research showed that the more time the women spent on the social network, the more negative they felt about themselves and the more comparisons they made to others on Facebook.
The study's authors were also able to predict how often the women compared their bodies to their Facebook friends'. Of course, these comparisons can be particularly damaging since Facebook posts are often carefully curated to present people, their lives, and their bodies in the best possible light.
"Public health professionals who work in the area of eating disorders and their prevention now have clear evidence of how social media relates to college women's body image and eating disorders," said Petya Eckler, a co-author of the study and a researcher at the University of Strathclyde. "While time spent on Facebook had no relation to eating disorders, it did predict worse body image among participants. As experts in the field know, poor body image can gradually lead to developing an unhealthy relationship with food. The attention to physical attributes may be even more dangerous on social media than on traditional media because participants in social media are people we know. These comparisons are much more relevant and hit closer to home. Yet they may be just as unrealistic as the images we see on traditional media."
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