Australian researchers have published a new study in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly, which suggests that frequently surfing profiles on Facebook is linked to self-objectification and comparing yourself to others. The practice of Facebook “stalking” increases body image issues, writes Chelsea Karnash for CBS.
Paper shows Facebook increases self-objectivication
Scientists surveyed 150 Australian women aged between 17 and 25 years old about their media consumption. Information was gathered on their TV watching habits, Facebook activity and which magazines they read.
The paper found that spending time in front of the TV, watching music videos and exploring the internet did not increase levels of self-objectification. However, reading magazines and browsing Facebook, categorized by researchers as “an appearance-focused media type” thanks to the number of photos on the site, were found to increase body image issues.
More interestingly, Facebook has an especially negative effect. Pictures of impossibly thin models in a fashion magazine are far enough away from most people’s everyday reality that most women do not expect to look like the models, but photos of a “friend” on Facebook are far closer to home.
“Comparisons to peers on Facebook may be most strongly associated with self-objectification…because the appearance of peers may be seen as more personally attainable,” “but also unattainable enough to still influence how women evaluate their own appearance,” according to the authors of the study.
What’s the solution?
It would appear that women are regularly exposed to material which makes them question their own body image, and readers may be wondering if there is a solution. One suggestion is to leave Facebook altogether, but there are slightly more subtle ways to reduce the influence of the social network on our psychology.
Researchers suggest that “reducing the amount of appearance-based content available on Facebook would reduce the opportunities that women have to make appearance comparisons and could increase the occurrence of nonappearance comparisons, which can be beneficial.”
Appearance-based content consists largely of photos, and it seems unlikely that Facebook will make any moves towards making the service more text-based. If users are aware of the fact that they are frequently comparing themselves to others in an unfavorable light, it could be healthy to block posts from certain users.