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Can Facebook Make You Feel Fat?

The social networking site may promote negative body images.

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Like a funhouse mirror that you can’t put down, Facebook may be distorting the image you have of your own body. A new survey by the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt shows that 75% of Facebook users are unhappy with their bodies, and more than half said that the social site makes them more self-conscious about their weight and bodies. The center surveyed 600 people between the ages of 16 and 40. Adults were just as likely as adolescents to be affected by Facebook. Men were also not immune. Fifty-eight percent of men said they would like to lose weight—compared to 75% of women. Men, however, were much more vocal about their discontent, with comments such as, “I need to hit the gym.” Forty percent of men posted negative comments on Facebook about their bodies, twice as many as women. Researchers note that while Facebook helps people connect with family and friends, it also makes it easier for us to compare ourselves to others, and to criticize our own bodies. The new Timeline feature also enables people to track changes in their body and weight over time. For those who log on frequently—80% of respondents log on every day—it’s difficult to avoid images that promote negative body image and low self esteem. Left unchecked, these can eventually lead to unhealthy dieting and eating disorders. To avoid the subtle, negative effects of using Facebook, the researchers suggest that you pay attention to how the site is affecting you, especially as it relates to body image. If you still find it difficult to avoid comparing your biceps or waistline with those of your friends, you can always log off.

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