Is Facebook Fueling Our Body Issues?
Posted by Girls Guide To on May 8, 2012 at 1:17 PM
Last Saturday night you were a legend – dancing on tables, kicking ass at karaoke, the norm. Your friends swarmed, snapping pics and posting them to Facebook before you had even had time to protest.
Cut to Sunday afternoon. You click through quickly and don’t find anything too bad to untag or too embarrassing to let your co-workers see, but log off worrying that the stress eating you've been doing with your new job is starting to show. And knowing that your Saturday shenanigans are uploaded for all to see, you vow for way more time on the treadmill this week.
If this sounds familiar (it’s pretty much the story of my life), a just-published survey from The Center For Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt says you're not alone. In fact, out of 600 Facebook users surveyed, 75 percent reported being unhappy with their bodies, and 51 percent said Facebook makes them more conscious about their body and weight. The social media site "appears to be fueling a 'camera ready' mentality among the general public," the study concludes. To that I say, “No sh*t, Sherlock.”
Our inner critics are mean, nasty jerks. And for people who struggle with ups and downs in their weight (also pretty much the story of my life), seeing posted pictures of themselves can be very difficult.
There’s a growing concern that the social media site (especially the dreaded Timeline, which allow for easy tracking of one’s entire life in pictures) may increase risk of dangerous weight-reduction behaviors. Doctors used to worry about us being triggered by photos of ultra thin-women in magazines, but now Facebook offers us a never-ending barrage of photos of ourselves and the people we know. They come fast and furious, with new pictures every single day, every minute.
The Sheppard Pratt survey also reinforces something we already know -- that Facebook is here to stay (80 percent of participants reported logging in at least once daily, and 61 percent reported more frequent use). We just can’t seem to part with it. So, how do we save ourselves from spiraling into self-criticism if we're just looking for a good time? Here’s a few ideas from The Daily Muse for starters.
First, Take Inventory
Stop for a minute and observe the effect critiquing your appearance (and/or comparing yourself to others) is having on your self-esteem. Are you repeatedly scrolling up and down your Timeline to analyze yourself in a bikini circa Spring Break 2009? (Guilty.) Are you posting comments on your friends’ photos that repeatedly focus on their weight or appearance? And what is going on in your head -- do you vow wildly to cut calories, or does the green monster of envy (or a sense of sadness) overtake you?
Then, You Gotta, Gotta Try a Little Mindfulness
If you answered yes to any of those questions above, it's time to take a step back. Instead of automatically reacting with negativity, self-criticism, or body shaming -- or starting yourself on your third diet this month -- use a practice called mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of organizing your thinking based on age-old Buddhist meditation practices -- and has been used to treat anxiety, stress, depression, chronic pain, and sleep disorders. And yes, body image issues, too.
A brief primer:
- Accept negative thoughts and feelings for what they are-just thoughts and feelings (like the millions of others that pass through your brain all day long). There's no need to stop to analyze or manage their content -- just note them, label them "negative thinking" and keep moving.
- Try to redirect yourself into a more accepting space. I know, that sounds super new-agey to me too. Essentially, you want to let go of former and fantasized images of yourself and be present with who you are in the moment. Instead of avoiding Facebook, try to accept the fact that our bodies do change over time and that is a natural process.
Using mindfulness is about accepting "what is" right now, instead of obsessing about the past or planning a massively calorie-restricted future. The hope is that your less anxious and judgmental self will be ready to re-learn your relationship with your looking glass and what to choose for a healthy lunch.
And Last But Not Least, Promote the Body Beautiful
Be the shining beacon of body-positivity on Facebook. Not just for yourself, but for your friends, too -- chances are, they're dealing with the same feelings. Posts as many positive healthy eating and body image articles as you can on your Facebook page. Comment on the non-physical accomplishments of your friends, not on their bodies. Ask friends to remove images of you that make you feel like crap (or just go stealth and quietly untag them yourself).
And do take the open invite on Facebook to connect to those friends who make you feel good about yourself. Facebook isn’t all bad -- having body image issues can be isolating, and the social media site helps you to stay connected with others.
Most importantly, if you find yourself overwhelmed with self-criticism or engaging in potentially dangerous eating behaviors (or see a friend doing so), please seek the help of a licensed therapist or physician immediately. We want the girl who belts it out under the spangles of the disco ball spinning on the ceiling on Saturday nights to love herself, both online and off.