Facebook Timeline Option May Fuel Weight Insecurities

By Emily Murray

We all know that dreaded feeling when we discover that our favorite pair of jeans is getting a bit snug. We don’t really need to step foot on a scale to know that our weight has changed since we can easily recall how they used to fit.

Okay…So what does this have to do with Facebook you ask? Take a closer look.

Since the new Timeline feature has been rolled out across the board this week, many users have mixed feelings. While scrolling through the years since first joining Facebook, we are instantly faced with our past lovers, past hairstyles and, for many, our past weight changes. It’s not uncommon for body weight to change whether we like it or not over the years, but now it’s here, right in front of our faces. Is Facebook making us even more uncomfortable with our bodies?

According to a recent public survey, the answer is yes. This research was developed by The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Prat in Baltimore who commissioned a public survey or 600 Facebook users ranging in age from 16 to 40. The results showed that the vast majority of those interviewed had compared their weight throughout different years by using Facebook’s timeline.

Apparently just looking at photos is not enough for some to figure out just how much their weight has changed. In fact, there are even applications now that track and chart weight loss and 14% were already installing this on Facebook while another 37 percent said they may eventually want to try it out as well. The numbers of Facebook users in general who are uncomfortable with their own weight is an astounding 75% and additionally 51% of the people said that when they were looking at photos of themselves it made them even more aware of the body size.

Are you guilty of playing the comparison game?

Think about the days before the social media explosion. You may occasionally see a photo in a friend’s photo album that made you think “wow, I need to lose weight” (whether or not this message was accurate). Today,  all it takes is one brief visit to your Facebook page to see a variety of photos and not all may be flattering. While you can disable your friends ability to tag you in photos making them automatically show up on your page, there will still inevitably be photos that surface that further fuel insecurities.

In addition to this topic in the news, another social media/body image awareness topic was also hitting headlines this week.

The relatively new social sharing site Pinterest has come under closer examination as more and more pro-anorexia pinboards are popping up sharing “Thinspiration” throughout cyber space. If you haven’t heard of these pro-anorexic movements previously, it is essentially a group of eating disordered women (and men) who continue to encourage one another to lose weight even though many are on the verge of succumbing to their disorder.

Like most other technological advancements, there will also be negatives along with the positives. These things can help serve as a reminder that we need to be kind to ourselves and our bodies. The images we look at daily can drive us to obsess over imperfections and make us wish we were more like others. It can also point out potentially dangerous signs  of an eating disorder that parents may have previous missed.

What do you think? Have you compared your weight on Facebook?