Is Facebook Giving You an Eating Disorder?
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Is Facebook Giving You an Eating Disorder?


This post was originally published on March 11, 2014.

Everyone knows that Facebook is pretty addictive but a new Florida State University study is claiming that people who frequent the social media site could be prone to eating disorders.

An Experiment by Captain Obvious

960 college women took part in a study that asked them if they had eating disorder habits and also how often they logged into Facebook. Guess what? Research found that there was in fact a positive correlation between women who spent more than 20 minutes on Facebook a day and those who had eating disorder issues.

Reading these results, my first response is, Duh. In my experience, people who are addicted to Facebook are probably 175% more insecure about everything in their life—from how cute their dog is to how much money they make and most definitely their body than people who don’t go on Facebook. And I’m not judging—I’m one of them. My boyfriend, however, is the other type—the one without any presence on social media who ridicules my “Facebooking” on a daily basis.

Friendly Envy

Let me preface by saying that I love my life. I have an amazing partner, a beautiful six-month-old son, no financial woes and over 11 years of sobriety under my belt. I don’t hate the way I look and though I am still not back to pre-baby body, I am totally comfortable in my own skin. Until, that is, I get onto Facebook and start examining my 3,197 “friends” and notice that the girl with whom I went to college, who has a daughter the same age as my baby, is already rocking a bikini and looks better than ever. And yet looking at photos of supermodels with perfect bodies in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition or on the pages of Vogue really doesn’t bother me at all. Perhaps Morrissey said it best: We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful.

The second part of this study broke up these participants into one group that was asked to go on Facebook as they usually would and another that studied the ocelot (also known as the dwarf leopard) on Wikipedia, after which they all took another survey about their eating and Facebook habits. Well, I’m sure you can guess the result: those who studied the cat were less preoccupied with Facebook validation—the likes and comments and status updates and whatnot—and also less obsessed with their weight.

Which Came First?

I don’t question the results of this study at all. But the reporting on it seems to be equally disordered. “That these effects could be discerned after only 20 minutes of typical Facebook use in a laboratory setting raises concerns about how the use of the site throughout the day may impact eating disorder risk,” the researchers apparently concluded. But the site doesn’t increase the risk of someone developing anorexia or bulimia. In other words, people who log onto Facebook more than average are prone to eating disorders not because they look at Facebook a lot but look at Facebook a lot because they have addictive personalities and insecurity issues. And people with addictive personalities and insecurity issues are prone to eating disorders. The moral of the story, to me, is one of the first things I was told when I got into recovery: Don’t compare your insides (and outsides) to other people’s outsides. Now perhaps people should also add: And don’t spend too much time on Facebook.

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