Skip to main content

Dislike: Facebook May Hurt Women's Body Image

It used to be magazines and TV that made some women feel badly about their bodies, but now Facebook may be doing the same thing, according to researchers.

A new study of college women in the United States shows that the more time a woman spends on Facebook, the more likely she is to dislike her appearance.

"We focused on women, and particularly college women, because they are under increased pressure to look a certain way, and for their bodies to have a certain shape. This pressure comes from both media images and interactions with peers," said study author Petya Eckler, a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde in the United Kingdom.

The researchers wanted to know whether Facebook adds to the pressure women feel to look good, Eckler told Live Science. "It turns out that it does," she said.

In the study, the researchers surveyed 881 college women, with an average age of roughly 24, about their Facebook use, body image, and exercise and eating habits. About 86 percent of the women in the study wanted to lose weight, which was a higher number than the 61 percent of American women who wanted to lose weight in a national survey quoted in the study, the researchers noted.

The results showed that the social media platform affected how the women viewed their bodies, and how often they compared themselves to their friends, the researchers said. The more time women spent on Facebook, they more likely they were to say that they paid a lot of attention to their physical appearance. Women who spent more time were also more likely to say they felt negative after seeing someone else's photos. And previous research has shown that college-aged women "untag" their Facebook photos if they don't like the way they look in those pictures.

The researchers noted that there was no link between the amount of time spent on Facebook and the women's risk of having eating disorders.

Still, Facebook may have far-reaching consequences for women's body image, the researchers said.

"Poor body image often leads to shame and embarrassment about certain parts of one's body," Eckler said. "The larger message here is not to cut off Facebook, but to manage it and to take what you see there, especially the photos, with a pinch of salt."

Follow Agata Blaszczak-Boxe on Twitter. Follow Live Science @livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on Live Science.