Florida State University researchers examined whether social media usage is linked to eating disorders. The first study examined 960 college women who answered a self-reported eating disorder screening assessment. As a result, there was a small but still significant positive correlation found between eating disorders and the duration of Facebook usage by these women. The second study examined 84 women from the first study and divided them into two groups. Group 1 was told to use Facebook as they typically would for 20 minutes. While, group 2 was asked to research the ocelot, a rainforest cat, on Wikipedia and YouTube. This second study concluded that the first group had reported greater body dissatisfaction than the second group. Furthermore, showing that there is some connection between Facebook use and eating disorders.
According to these studies, social media platforms should not be held responsible for causing eating disorders. Many illnesses have a complex of biological, psychological and cultural roots, so placing blame on social media websites wouldn’t be fair. More research on this topic should be done to have a more complete evaluation of this situation. Social media can also be used as a positive tool for early intervention and recovery. This is an aspect that is overlooked a lot with eating disorders but, it is important to understand how helpful they could be or if these sites are at all.
The article also provides the writer’s personal experience that she witnessed on a daily basis at work. She describes websites like Facebook, as being toxic. These websites allow access to images or messages that can trigger disordered eating. When she had suffered from her own personal eating disorder problems, she focused on the thigh gap issue that I have touched upon in a previous blog entry, as well as “Thinspiration.” Thinspiraitons seems to be a popular word in the eating disorder world. According to her, social media doesn’t cause these negative thoughts, it just amplifies them. Therefore, social scientists and websites need to focus their work on finding efficient ways to effectively promote media literacy, self-acceptance, support, recovery and body image activism. Social media can be used in a positive way, but scientists need to bring people the courage to fight urges and negative thoughts to focus searches on positive body images and thoughts within the social sites.
Mysko, Claire. CNN. “Fight Eating Disorders With Facebook.” March 7, 2014. http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/07/living/eating-disorders-social-media-parents/