Facebook Stalking Is Linked To Eating Disorders, So You May Want to Rethink Your Habits

If you have or have ever had a Facebook profile, you know how easily you can find yourself scrolling through your friends' pictures from five years ago. Your Facebook stalking might have detrimental effects to your mental health though, as new research has found a link between eating disorders and Facebook use. We all know how reading fashion magazines can make us feel bad about our bodies, and science has also documented this — a 2011 study found that fashion magazine exposure caused internalized body shame and depleted body dissatisfaction, for example. Well, social media may not be much better than reading Vogue, as the same links seen in fashion magazine reading have now been documented in those who have partaken in Facebook stalking.

The research, published in the Psychology of Women, looked at how this self-objectification worked on Facebook, since the researchers noted that this is usually the side effect of comparing your body to others. Obviously, Facebook allows us to do the same thing, the only difference being our relationship to those we are viewing. The questions the study aimed to examine were what the relationships between different types of media exposure and self-objectification are, if comparing your appearance to others lead to any lasting effects, and if comparing appearances to other women on Facebook caused self-objectification.

The Study

To carry out the study, the research team used 150 17-25 year old women who were surveyed about their body image and media consumption. They were asked a variety of questions about their feelings on their personal appearance, self-objectification, their Facebook usage, and comparison tendencies. What they found was that Facebook is indeed a huge culprit of self-objectification, as using the website was correlated to this behavior.

What is Self-Objectification?

If you're wondering how self-objectification works, the researchers explained that according to objectification theory, viewing media where women are treated as objects rather than subjects leads them to view themselves as objects and their bodies from a third person perspective. If you've ever put on a push-up bra so that a guy would be turned on by your cleavage or looked into a mirror and thought about others perception of your body, you've self-objectified.

While self-objectification in and of itself may not seem like a big deal, it has been linked to a host of negative health and wellness outcomes, including depression, body dissatisfaction, and even eating disorders. There's real evidence that self-objectification is not good for you or your health, which makes this finding significant.

The Findings

Getting into the specifics of what they found, it turns out that our close friends and family on Facebook may cause us to feel worse about our bodies than celebrities or models do. They postulated that because we understand that photos in magazines have been airbrushed but our friends (well, probably) haven't been, they prove to be more threatening to our self-esteem. "Their [our friends on Facebook] appearance might be perceived as attainable enough to serve as relevant targets of comparison but also unattainable enough to still influence how women evaluate their own appearance,” the researchers explained.

With the women in this survey spending an average of two hours per day on Facebook, the exposure is becoming even more prevalent in our daily lives. Magazine readership is on the decline and perhaps our social media time is replacing this reading in our leisure.

So, What Now?

I'm definitely going to be more cautious in my use of Facebook and if you find yourself feeling badly about your body after doing so, pay attention to that and adjust your usage. Imagine what more you could accomplish in the two hours per day you spend sifting through your friends vacation photos and selfies. If you need help in learning to love your body, here are some practical ways to cultivate body love!

Images: Getty Images (1); Giphy (4)