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Facebook Isn't the Bad Guy When It Comes to Body Image

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Studies on Facebook use often link the social media platform to negative body image or unhealthy habits.

But new research suggests that young women who are invested in Facebook - and who have lots of Facebook friends - are actually less likely to struggle with risky dieting behaviors than their peers.

The study, from the University of North Carolina Health Care, found that college-age women, so long as they don't use the social media site to compare their bodies to their friends' bodies, could have a healthy relationship with Facebook.

"We really wanted to examine how each college woman used Facebook when posting pictures online," said Dr. Stephanie Zerwas. "Is she thinking, 'I'm posting this picture to share a fun moment with my friends' or is she thinking 'I want to post this picture to compare how my body looks to my friends' bodies."

More screen time isn't necessarily bad

The study included 128 college-age women who completed online surveys designed to question them about their weight, dieting habits and their connection to Facebook in daily life.

Based on past studies about Facebook use and dieting behaviors, the researchers expected to find a correlation between time spent on social media and the incidence of disordered eating. However, more time spent on Facebook was not linked to a higher risk of dangerous eating behaviors or attitudes.

"I think that Facebook could be an amazing tool to nurture social support and connections with friends and families," Zerwas said. "And if you're getting that kind of social support from the site, you might be less likely to be worried about your body size. But if you're using it as a measuring stick to measure how your body appears in pictures compared to your friend's body, Facebook could also be used as a tool to foster dangerous dieting behavior."

Source: UNC
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net