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Facebook, eating disorders and young women

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Adolescent girls who spend a lot of time on Facebook may be more prone to body image issues than young women who limit their time on the social media site, a new study reveals.

Researchers from American University in Washington, D.C. found that the length of time girls spent on the site – as well as what they looked at when they were on it – influenced their thoughts and feelings about their bodies.

Photos change perceptions

The study found that photo-related activities like viewing friends' pictures or viewing photos of themselves were related to internalizing a "thin ideal." The girls ranked different Facebook behaviors based on how often they used them, with results showing that weight dissatisfaction and self-objectification were linked to more time on Facebook and photo-related activities in general.

Researchers weren't able to identify whether or not young women with pre-existing body image issues were more drawn to photo-related activity on the site, or if the activity itself caused the body image concerns.

“The nature of Facebook photo sharing may expedite this process,” the study authors wrote about the pressure to live up to certain standards of beauty and image.

A factor in prevention programs

Brenda K. Wiederhold, editor-in-chief of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking said that because social media might influence certain factors that contribute to disordered eating habits, studying this connection further can help in identifying preventative strategies.

"Given the connection between eating disorders and body image distortion and dissatisfaction, it is important to identify contributing factors in this particularly vulnerable group," Wiederhold said. "By identifying these factors, we can move towards designing more effective prevention programs."

Source: TIME