Does Facebook Make Our Girls Feel Bad About Their Bodies?

by Hollee Actman Becker
Originally Published: 

Let me be clear: The girls don’t actually feel short and fat and ugly when they are around their friend. But they run away from her anyway because they are all too aware of how they will look standing next to her when the picture inevitably winds up somewhere on social media later.

Sad, but true. And not all that surprising when you consider that, according to a recent study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, young women who spend a lot of time on social media are more likely to compare their looks to others and to self-objectify, which in turn causes their self-esteem to plummet.

“Our research shows that spending more time on Facebook is associated with greater self-objectification among young women, and these relationships are influenced by women’s tendency to compare their appearance to others, particularly to peers on Facebook,” the authors of the study said.

Researchers asked 150 females, ages 17 to 25, how much time they spent using various types of media, including Facebook, fashion magazines, TV, music videos and the Internet. They were also questioned about how often they compared their own looks to those of others on Facebook, including six specific groups: older photos of themselves, family members, close friends, friends of friends, Facebook-only friends and celebrities.

The findings? Women who were heavy users of Facebook (two hours a day or more) were “significantly” likely to self-objectify, or compare their appearance to their own images. Other types of media, like TV and general Internet browsing, did not correlate as highly. “This research highlights some of the potential negative influences that Facebook may have on how young women view their body,” the researchers reported. “Not only does Facebook provide people with ample opportunity to make self-comparisons (perhaps more so than in everyday life), but comparing one’s appearance to images of one’s self on Facebook may be particularly objectifying because one is literally looking at oneself from an observer’s perspective. Furthermore, these self-comparisons to images of a previous self might engender a greater focus on specific body parts.”

Interesting. My daughter actually complained to me the other day that her fingers looked fat. Her fingers! “Look at these other girls’ hands,” she said, shoving her phone in my face. I glanced at the screen full of super artsy nail selfies. “See how their fingers are all long and skinny? Mine are short and stubby.”

Before I could respond, she continued. “Doesn’t matter. I’m just gonna use Thinify and Facetune to make mine look better.”

Welcome to 2015.

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