Mollie Hawkins
February 05, 2015 2:41 pm

Whether we’re cool with it or not, Facebook is part of our daily routines. For some of us, it can even be an obsessive routine that leads to endless refreshing and perhaps a shame-spiral-time-suck of friends’ photos and news updates (Guilty.). You may think you’re just signing onto Facebook to look at your BFF’s new pix and 45 minutes later find yourself on your best friend’s mom’s brother-in law’s wife’s page looking at pictures of her trips to Cancun. It has happened to all of us.

Most young women spend about two hours daily on Facebook (which is crazy but totally believable). In addition to time spent browsing we also spend a lot of our Facebook hours curating. We spend countless time uploading the best images and representations of ourselves for the world to see — our best angles, our chicest outfits, our most glamorous vacations spots. With that in mind, it’s not terribly surprising that Facebook has become yet another tool by which we women compare ourselves and our lives to one another’s — and honestly, it’s making us kind of depressed.

Go ahead and heave a collective sigh.

Let’s talk about what exactly we’re comparing when we look at other people’s FB pix. While you might assume we’re matching up our bodies (because that’s what gets compared on most other forms of media) it turns out what we’re really looking at is a little more zoomed in. Recent studies conclude that when looking at Facebook, women become motivated to change their hair, face, and skin. Researchers say that the cause for this might be that we tend to post more close-up images of ourselves on Facebook (hello, that profile pic box is tiny!) which means less body shots to agonize over. Researchers found that study participants weren’t as concerned with their own weight or size when looking at Facebook as they were with their, well, faces.

The control for the study had a group of women look at “appearance-neutral control websites,” and those women reported no added dissatisfaction with themselves. Meanwhile the Facebook group — essentially — browsed themselves into a bad mood. These findings are pretty much what we could have guessed after talking to any girl after she’s indulged in a thorough Facebook stalking sesh. Additionally, even a short little Facebook visit can bum us out about other aspects of our lives — look how much that girl gets to travel. Wait, were all my friends at dinner without me?

In short, Facebook sorta, kinda, maybe depresses us a bit. But reality check: Facebook isn’t leaving our orbit anytime soon, and neither are other social media sites. Meaning, we’re just going to need to find positive ways to engage on the outlets so that they don’t bum us out. And perhaps just being aware of the fact that this feed of filtered, photoshopped, friends can lead to us re-evaluating our beauty regimen will make us feel a little more normal the next time those judgmental, or self-critical thoughts creep in. Also, when those thoughts sneak up, maybe take that as a sign that it’s time to shut the app. Another thing to do: start talking with girls at a young age about how social media images are totally idealized. AND start posting more body positive stuff or posts where the likes will have nothing to do with appearance.

Final thought: What I really want to know is, what’s the “appearance neutral control website” they used for the study? Because it sounds fun, and I want to believe it’s Cute Overload. Maybe we should all be spending more of our online time there.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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