Researchers from Miami have just published an article in the International Journal of Eating Disorders that begins to highlight the complexities of the interaction between social media, body dissatisfaction, self esteem, and disordered eating.
Some previous studies have found a correlation (not causation) between greater Facebook use and disordered eating and higher levels of weight and shape concerns when compared to users of other internet activities. Posting photos and viewing photo’s is correlated to body image disturbance and an increase rate of body comparision. Importatly, these studies are correlational (those who are high in body comparison and body dissatisfaction may be more likely to look at photos) and do not tell us what might lead to what.
One longitudinal study looked at college women’s tendency to seek out negative feedback and engage in social comparisons predicted bulimic and overeating symptoms at a later date. It was postulated that Facebook use led to body dissatisfaction which led to disordered symptoms.
The Miami study took 185 College students with an average age of 18. Individuals in this study who reported a greater “negative feedback seeking style” were more likely to report an increase in their dietary restraint in their eating a month later if they received a larger number of Facebook comments. However, the "negative feedback seeking style" was measured by only one question “(I sometimes write negative things about myself in my status updates to see if others respond with negative comments about me)". Also the increase in restraint was correlated with the number of comments, some of which would have been positive and reassuring.
Individuals were more likely to report higher shape, weight and eating concerns when they received negative comments in response to personally revealing Facebook comments.
So, posting negative comments about yourself on Facebook, and receiving comments about your post (either negative or positive) did tend to increase restraint in this study, as it has in some other studies. I am not sure in would increase restraint or eating disordered attitudes more than magazines and other media images do. There is a strong body of literature indicating that these sorts of images do increase body dissatisfaction, which increases dieting which is, in turn, a risk factor for eating disorders (particularly bulimia nervosa).
As always comments and thoughts are welcome either on our Facebook page or on the Website below.