The scary link between Facebook and the way you feel about your body.


Do you spend heaps of time on Facebook? Are you very self-conscious? Do you often feel bad about the way you look?

It turns out that you may need to get off Facebook, because there’s a direct correlation between the way you feel about yourself and how much time you spend on Facebook.

A study by researchers in the UK and the US surveyed 881 women across universities in both countries. They researched their Facebook use, their eating/exercise habits and their body image.

This from Medical News Today:

The findings showed that more time spent on Facebook was associated with more negative feelings and more comparisons to the bodies of friends. They also found that for women who want to lose weight, more time on Facebook led to more attention being paid to physical appearance. This included attention to one’s body and clothing.

And it makes sense, especially for girls that are in their twenties. After all, I’m a girl in my twenties and all I see on my Facebook page is:


– Ads for Ashy Bines and other weight loss programs;

ashy bines

– Ads for health products and weight loss products that will supposedly help me lose a huge amount of weight in little to no time, despite having no scientific evidence behind them whatsoever;

garcinia copy

– Pictures of my Facebook friends in bikinis and board shorts, looking super hot and super tanned, lounging on beaches in Ibiza or sunning themselves on the Gold Coast;

Image via Rich Kids of Instagram
Image via Rich Kids of Instagram

– Pictures of the healthy meals and smoothies that my super-health-conscious friends have made.

Via @mamamiahealthandfitness on Instagram. Yes, I admit I'm a culprit.
Via @mamamiahealthandfitness on Instagram. Yes, I admit I’m a culprit.

And you know what? I often scroll through my Facebook feed and feel shitty about myself. Because I’m bombarded with all of the above. And even though I work out and take care of my body… I don’t seem skinny or pretty or active enough. I don’t spend enough of my time making healthy muffins and smoothies.

When in fact? None of it accurately represents real life.

It’s an issue we’ve talked about many times on Mamamia before. People don’t share their real selves on social media. They share the glossy, perfect versions of themselves. And in all honesty, I’m guilty of it too.

If you looked at my social media life, you could be forgiven for thinking that I’m always doing something really super exciting – skiing or surfing or trapezing or eating at an amazing restaurant – while dressed perfectly. When in reality, all I really do is work, go to uni, sleep and eat. While usually dressed in either trackies or these really loose silk pants I have that are only just passable for wearing as real pants and not pyjama pants.

Of course I’m not going to willingly put up a photo of my boring, average life. Or a photo in which I look really unattractive. And it’s the same with everyone else. Which is the main problem with social media – we get such an incredibly distorted view of what everyone’s real life is like.

Someone might always post photos of the green smoothies they drink and yet they might spend the rest of their time eating Nutella sandwiches. Someone might always post photos of them looking incredible and yet they might spend four hours doing their hair and make-up each morning. Someone might post a really hot bikini picture and yet they might have not eaten for two weeks in order to get that super-slim body.

And it’s not just the photos we are posting of our lives that are messing with our minds. It’s the photos that companies are using to promote products that are either Photoshopped or completely fake.

Take, for example, the before-and-after pics that are so loved by so many health and weight loss brands. While there are some legitimate images out there used by companies, there are just as many that are purporting completely false claims, with images that – with some clever Photoshop and fake tanning – appear to be the real deal.

Click here for an explanation of the tricks that are used by before-and-after pics. And see below for a before-and-after pic that I took of myself one night. There is a 5 minute time difference between the two images – but I used a bunch of tricks to make myself look like I’d lost about 5kg (fake tan, make-up, a different bikini).

fitnessIf I can fake that before-and-after so easily, imagine what those ads are doing to make you feel bad about yourself. Imagine how they’re editing their images to make you look at them and say, “why don’t I look like that? Why will I never look like that?”

And yet none of it is real.

It’s no wonder we feel worse about ourselves when we spend more time on social media.

Petya Eckler, a researcher from the University of Strathclyde, said that while time spent on Facebook has no relation to eating disorders, “it did predict worse body image among participants”:

As experts in the field know, poor body image can gradually lead to developing an unhealthy relationship with food. The attention to physical attributes may be even more dangerous on social media than on traditional media because participants in social media are people we know. These comparisons are much more relevant and hit closer to home. Yet they may be just as unrealistic as the images we see on traditional media.

The best solution? Spend less time on social media and more in real life, where everyone’s life is very far from the picture-perfect Instagram-filtered world that seems to be on your screen.

For some more natural images, here a few that Mamamia collected as part of our Body Positive Project. These were the body parts people said they used to hide – but wouldn’t anymore. 

Do you think there’s a correlation between body image and social media?


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