According to the researchers from University of North Carolina, if young women are not using Facebook to compare their bodies to their friends’ bodies, they are less likely to struggle with risky dieting behaviors compared to their peers.
“Young college women who are more emotionally involved in Facebook and have lots of Facebook friends are less concerned with body size and shape and less likely to engage in risky dieting behaviors,” said Stephanie Zerwas, assistant professor of psychiatry.
In the study, 128 college-aged women completed an online survey with questions designed to measure their disordered eating.
The team also asked questions about each woman’s emotional connection to Facebook — her incorporation of the social networking site — into their daily life, time spent on the site each day and number of Facebook friends.
They also checked whether they compared their bodies to their friends’ in online pictures. The team noticed that being more emotionally invested in Facebook was associated with less concern about body size, shape and lesser risky dieting behaviors.
“Facebook could be an amazing tool to nurture social support and connections with friends and families,” Zerwas said.
The social networking site could also be used a tool to foster dangerous dieting behaviors in young adults, the authors said in a paper published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.