Social media use can affect a woman’s self-esteem, according to new research.
The findings by the University of South Wales in the UK showed that those who spend more than an hour a day on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are more unhappy with their bodies than others who spent less time on the sites.
Lead researcher Martin Graff says social-media users tend to think thin people are more attractive, and may be more self-conscious about how they themselves look.
They are also more motivated to exercise in a bid to improve their bodies.
“Spending more time each day on those social media sites that are often used to post images of oneself, and for comparison with others, is linked to having unhealthy relationships both with body image and potentially exercise,” Graff told HealthDay News.
As part of the research, he and his colleagues questioned 100 female college students, asking them to complete a series of questionnaires about their use of social media and feelings about body image.
The feedback women receive on social media could be making them insecure, particularly if they fail to realize that “what people post is nearly always images of themselves in a positive light,” Graff said.
“People generally portray themselves positively — in the gym, running a marathon or having a happy time,” he added. “People don’t post ‘bad hair’ days or photos of themselves looking sick.”
Dr. Nancy Mramor, a psychologist and media expert from Pittsburgh, said the all-pervasive nature of social media made the findings particularly troubling.
“Social media has become a way to put these false images right in your field of vision whether you opt for them or not,” she said. “You can turn off a movie, close a magazine or consciously step back from a billboard, but not so with social media.
“If young women want to know what someone is doing today, or stay connected to their friends, they have to turn it on.”
Mramor says there are precautions you can take to minimize the damage to your self-esteem.
She told HealthDay News: “Decide before going in that the images and information you see are not reality. If someone posts pictures of an expensive vacation that you could not afford, remember that posts are often exaggerated. ”