Can Facebook Pictures Be Linked To Eating Disorders?

Everyone knows about Facebook, it has become a global phenomenon and an active site for social interaction and comparison. With the increase in the use of technology, there is a positive correlation with decreased body image in young females. In a study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, 960 college females were evaluated on the time they spend on social media sites, how important “likes” are and whether or not they untag photographs of themselves.

The Study

Dr. Pamela K. Keel one of the study authors states, “Over 95% of college women in our study use Facebook, and those with Facebook accounts described typically spending 20 minutes on the site during each visit, amounting to over an hour on the site each day.”

Females who spent more time on Facebook reported a higher incidence of appearance-focused behaviors and reported greater eating pathology. These same females also were more likely to place greater significance to receiving comments and “likes” on their status updates, frequently untagged pictures of themselves and compare their pictures to those of friends.
Keel said, “In examining the immediate consequences of Facebook use, we found that 20 minutes of Facebook use contributed to maintenance of higher weight and shape concerns and anxiety compared to a control internet condition. This causal link is important because anxiety and body image concerns both increase the risk for developing eating disorders.”
Even though it is a main cause, Facebook could possibly become a maintenance factor for prevention programs. The main goal is to encourage women to develop a better self-image and practice responsible use of social media websites.

Keel went on to say, “Facebook merges powerful peer influences with broader societal messages that focus on the importance of women’s appearance into a single platform that women carry with them throughout the day. As researchers and clinicians attempt to understand and address risk factors for eating disorders, greater attention is needed to the emerging role of social media in young people’s lives.”


For teenaged girls, social media is an essential part of their everyday lives, much in the same way telephones were important to us when we were their age.

Approximately 90% of teens have used some type of social media and 75% have a profile on a social networking site. There are a lot of great things about social media, but it is also extremely important to make smart choices when posting to social media websites like Facebook.

Social media can be great for staying in touch with friends and family, meeting and interacting with friends who share your interests and enhancing one’s creativity through ideas, art and music. However, social media can be responsible for a person experiencing cyberbullying and other questionable activities.

If you are the parent of a female, it’s important to keep an open line of communication with her, to reinforce her self-worth and to make her feel validated as a person. The more self-esteem and self-confidence a female has, the less likely she is to let the images and interactions she has on social media affect her in negative ways.

Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

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