Maria Morri

Add poor body image to the list of issues you can blame on Facebook

It's doesn't only sap your time—it also saps your confidence.

Feb 29, 2020, 8:04 pm*

IRL

Marianne Kirby 

Marianne Kirby

Do you hate your thighs? Or have you recently considered getting a nose job? A new study has found that Facebook might not be helping those impulses. 

The international journal Sex Roles is an interdisciplinary behavioral science journal publishing reports and articles about gender roles from a feminist perspective. They just published the study based on data gathered from more than 11,000 people taking part in the New Zealand Values and Attitudes Study (NZVAS).

While other studies have canvassed for broad information, such as general unhappiness as a result of Facebook use, the New Zealand study specifically address issues of body satisfaction. Participants were asked how satisfied they were with the appearance, size, and shape of their body. Sam Stronge, an Auckland University PhD candidate, mapped results with people who had active Facebook accounts. Anyone who checked their account less than once a week was not considered an active user.

Most surprising to researchers was that women in their mid-30s to mid-40s experienced the highest levels of body dissatisfaction of any group. Stronge, in an article in the Otago Daily Times, partially chalks that up to most previous research focusing on younger women who are closest to a “beautiful thin” standard. Menopausal women, by contrast, put much less pressure on themselves, and tend to feel better about their bodies. 

Middle-aged women, Stronge theorized, find themselves in a jam. “So the middle-aged women are kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place—they are not fitting into the standard, but they are still young enough to be judged,” she says.

Results indicate that both men and women with active Facebook accounts have lower satisfaction with their bodies than those who don’t use the social network.

Another similar recent study led by Mai-Ly N. Steers out of the University of Houston on the topic did not provide statistical support for the idea that depressed and dissatisfied people gravitate toward more frequent Facebook use, so it isn’t simply a case of miserable people finding ways to be miserable online. One working theory is that frequent Facebooking provides people with more opportunities to compare themselves with others and identify shortcomings.

Finding a solution may not be as easy as just getting offline. “Social comparison is an automatic process,” Steers told New York magazine earlier this year. “I would advise heavy Facebook users who might be feeling more depressed to try to reflect on their experiences.” 

She continued, “Facebook’s intended purpose is for people to interact and feel more positively as a result. However, if you are experiencing the unintended consequence of feeling bad about yourself after using Facebook, maybe it’s time to step away from the keyboard.”

Photo via Maria Morri/Flickr

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*First Published: Sep 9, 2015, 4:55 pm