Facebook could predict who will develop an eating disorder

FILE - This Feb. 8, 2012, file photo, shows a view inside Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

Facebook is (basically) omniscient at this point. It knows when you're in a relationship with someone, even if you don't divulge such information. It knows when you'll break up with that person, even before you begin to resent him/her for slighting your friends and holding you back from realizing your full potential professionally and creatively. It knows where you are, who you're with, what you're doing, and (probably) that John Connor will rise up lead The Resistance to rebel against Skynet in a few years.

It might also know who will likely develop an eating disorder.

A Florida State University study had nearly 1,000 women respond to a survey about eating attitudes and habits and then either spend time on Facebook or Wikipedia. The results indicated that time spent on Facebook could help identify women who were at greater risk for having disordered eating.

There were certain Facebook behaviors, though, that were significantly associated with disordered eating: “Participants with greater disordered eating endorsed greater importance of receiving comments on their status and photos, and greater importance of receiving “likes” on their status.” They also untagged themselves more often and tended to compare their photos to those of their female friends.

Implications: This study found a “significant but small” association between Facebook use generally and disordered eating. It seems that with Facebook, as with any tool, it depends on how you use it. The young women in this study were at greater risk when they spent more time untagging photos and comparing their photos to others’, “perhaps in order to remove unflattering photographs and minimize opportunities to become the target of downward social comparison.” Similarly, people who posted to Facebook in the hopes of eliciting positive responses were more at risk. Facebook is just one more place where people can be exposed to unrealistic beauty standards. [The Atlantic]

Check out the full study and its implications about Facebook user habits and eating disorders over at the Wiley Online Library.