Does Facebook Make Me Look Fat?

Features such as Facebook timeline, which is rife with photos, have the potential to make people hyper-aware of their physical appearance.

This could lead to troublesome effects for individuals suffering from eating disorders and body-image problems such as body dysmorphic disorder, say some psychology experts who specialize in weight-loss and eating issues.

When 600 Facebook users were recently surveyed by The Center For Eating Disorders at Shepard Pratt, based in Baltimore, 51 percent reported that using Facebook made them feel more self-conscious about their weight and body appearance, The Huffington Post reported. Of those surveyed, 75 percent reported being unhappy with their bodies.

A total of 80 percent of those surveyed reported checking into Facebook at least one time per day, while 61 percent reported doing so more than that.

Harry Brandt, director of The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, said in a press release:

Facebook is making it easier for people to spend more time and energy criticizing their own bodies and wishing they looked like someone else. In this age of modern technology and constant access to smartphones and the internet, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to remove themselves from images and other triggers that promote negative body image and low self-esteem, and that may ultimately contribute to eating disorders.

Facebook in some ways is not unlike other photo albums you would flip through (or photo albums of others you one might look at). Many people practically live on the social network in a way that would make it hard to avoid for those having a hard time with body image and self-critical of photos of themselves.

Indeed, it would be nearly impossible not to see the photos that are front-and-center of Facebook pages, even when users go to the pages for reasons other than to look at them.

The real trouble here, though, is that we as a society are in large part unable to view photographs for what they are — images of people, not to be judged, but just to be looked at. People are often harshly and unfairly judged on how they look and dress.

Recall the recent reports of hunger-game brides-to-be paying thousands of dollars to have food tubes inserted into their nostrils in a mad, crazy rush to lose weight before their weddings.

If you have a daughter, sister, co-worker, or friend who is on Facebook and may be sensitive to body-image issues, it may be helpful to offer support and remind them that it’s not what’s on the outside that holds, but rather what is on the inside.

Experts also advise paying close attention if a loved one begins to post comments focusing heavily on weight and physical appearance and/or through comments reveals a negative a body image. This may signal that it is time to talk about the body issues that using Facebook could surface.

Researchers recommended these sites and pages as areas that support positive body images and are self-esteem-promoting:

Readers, would you feel comfortable talking to a friend, wife, daughter, sister, brother, or girlfriend about these issues?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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