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Facebook users may develop poor body image

By Meredith Cohn, The Baltimore Sun –

Facebook may be focusing users too much on their body weight and image, according to a new survey from the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, a Baltimore hospital for the mentally ill.

The mental health institution took a look at the social media outlet and found 75 percent of Facebook users were unhappy with their bodies, and 51 percent said Facebook makes them more conscious of their bodies and weight.

Researchers cited comments like: “l look so fat in that photo — untag me,” “You look so skinny, I could never wear those jeans!” “Did you see how much weight Greg gained?” “Totally pigged out today — gotta start that diet,” “Just ran 10 miles,” “I need to hit the gym,” “You don’t even look like you had a baby!”

Now, those researchers are encouraging user to be mindful of their use of the site and the impacts it has on them.

“Facebook is making it easier for people to spend more time and energy criticizing their own bodies and wishing they looked like someone else,” said Dr. Harry Brandt, director of the Sheppard Pratt center, in a statement. “In this age of modern technology and constant access to smart phones and the Internet, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to remove themselves from images and other triggers that promote negative body image, low self-esteem and may ultimately contribute to eating disorders.”

The center says teens and adults alike are affected by the negative impacts including shaming, body comparisons and self-criticism on Facebook. The survey of 600 users were aged 16 to 40.

The researchers found that because users spend so much time on Facebook, they spend a lot of time analyzing their bodies. The researchers found:

—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.

—Facebook appears to be fueling a “camera ready” mentality among the general public.

—Advances in Facebook technology such as Timeline, are making it easier for people to track body and weight changes.

—People are not happy with their bodies and are engaging in dangerous behaviors in connection with those feelings.

“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,” said Dr. Steven Crawford, the center’s associate director, in a statement. “When people become more concerned with the image they project online and less concerned with holistic markers of health in real life, their body image may suffer and they may even turn, or return, to harmful fad diets or dangerous weight-control behaviors. We hope the results of this survey encourage people to really look at how their online behavior affects their outlook, and we caution them against being overly critical of their own bodies or other people’s bodies while on Facebook and other social networking sites.”

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