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Facebook vs. Body Image

With the increasing use of smartphones and the every-minute accessibility of the Internet, it seems that people are becoming more self-conscious and more likely to compare themselves to others. Self-criticism is rising, and as Facebook became more popular, so did low self-esteem and negative body image. In a national survey conducted by the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, 600 Facebook users aged 16 to 40 were polled on self-image. Seventy-five percent were unhappy with their body. Fifty-one percent said they compare their lives to their friends? when they read status updates and see pictures posted. Almost half wish they had the same body and weight as a friend when they look at Facebook photos. 

This behavior is also reflected in how people act at social events. Because people tend to post camera photos onto Facebook, some –worried about their appearance — are not willing to be photographed at all. Forty-three percent of respondents said they avoid having others take pictures of them at gatherings if they don?t ?look their best.? That kind of frustration can lead to problems like eating disorders. An overwhelming 69 percent of respondents want to lose weight; some have even cut out certain food groups. Only 25 percent said they were happy with their current body and weight.

Internationally, the numbers are even lower. In a study conducted in 2011 by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, 1,200 teenagers aged ten to 17 were polled. Only 11 percent of girls are ?comfortable using the word beautiful to describe their looks.?  Most of them ? 72 percent ? feel ?tremendous pressure to be beautiful.?

The Center for Eating Disorders? associate director, Dr. Steven Crawford, recognizes the dangers of social media: ?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.? Dr. Susan Albers agrees: ?The inner critic is not kind.? 

?Facebook offers [their users] a barrage of photos of themselves and others. They come fast and furious, with new pictures every single day, every minute.? 

To combat the hyper-awareness of body size, Sheppard Pratt advocates subscribing to positive Facebook pages such as Proud2BmeUS, which promotes healthy discussions about body image, and encourages focus on non-physical achievements. The Center also recommends finding a new interest that would reduce negative thoughts about body image. Psychologist Albers advises her patients to use mindfulness in which people accept who they are and that their bodies change.

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