The results of a new study may help predict eating disorders by using Facebook. The findings were published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. The journal notes how Facebook combines media and peers, what they call two universally known social influences that are linked to the reinforcement of being thin and thus, the development of eating disorders.
A writer from the Atlantic put the study into perspective stating how reality is distorted on Facebook. Users can post photos that present what they want friends to see them as, such as big dinners and being surrounded by happy friends. The Atlantic emphasize how on top of it all, users can post pictures and keep the ones they look beautiful in, while untagging the photos they don’t look as well in.
The study involved Floria State University researchers giving out tests to 960 female students in college. The test explored attitudes in regards to eating and through it, determined how disordered their habits were. Another question inquired about the amount of time that each student spent on Facebook weekly.
A second study explored the link between Facebook and eating disorders through a smaller sample of 84 women taken from the previous larger sample. The participants were all around 18-years-old. Some of the 84 were asked to spend 20 minutes on Facebook. The rest of the participants spent 20 minutes on Wikipedia researching ocelots and on YouTube watching an ocelot video. The study said they wanted to link “the control condition” with the “experimental condition,” exploring the exposure to text as opposed to images, while eliminating any human body related images.
Once the participants completed their tasks on the Internet, they were asked to give in measurements of their weight and shape and their desired time of exercise. The participants also had to take the test on eating attitudes and answer questions about their Facebook usage. Most importantly, they were inquired about whether it is normal for them to spend 20 minutes on the social media site.
The results were startling, with a correlation found between high scores in eating disorder and the amount of time spent on Facebook. However, in the second study there was not a significant statistic in the relationships, the researchers suggesting that it was likely as a result of the small sample size.
The study said that participants with eating disorders of significance saw it more crucial to receive comments on their photos and statuses, along with getting a “like” on their status. The participants also were more likely to untag themselves in photos and compare themselves to their female friends.
The study called the results that linked eating disorders to Facebook small, but significant. They emphasize how it all depends how you use Facebook, such as the case for any social media site. The study also notes how Facebook adds to a list of places where people are exposed to “unrealistic beauty standards.” They further note how the social media site gives a space for women to compare themselves with their female peers who either portray or reinforce the ideal of being thin.
By Kollin Lore