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Do Social Media Sites Influence Eating Disorders?

1337 words - 6 pages

Media is a major factor in driving the increased incidence of anorexia nervosa: according to a 2000 study by Tiggemann et al., “the factor exerting the strongest pressure to be thin was the media.” Social media in particular has led to the anorexia epidemic amongst young women. A study done by Field et al. (2001) claimed that the media is responsible for encouraging girls to pursue the idea of achieving an unrealistically thin body type. People are bombarded constantly with advertisements and posts from the various social media sites of which they are members; some posts found on these sites evoke negative feelings and perceptions in regards to body image. Such emotions may lead to a ...view middle of the document...

A Duke University study has shown that in 1 in every 200 women between the ages of 15 and 24 suffers from some form of anorexia. Between ten to fifty percent of college-aged women have reported binge eating and purging. Forty percent of girls between the ages of nine and ten have been on diets to lose weight and fifty to sixty percent of young women believe they are overweight, of those only about 15 to 20% actually are. These statistics are alarming because young women are constantly being criticized for their bodies and conditioned to strive for an unrealistic idea of the ‘perfect body.’ This notion of the ‘perfect body’ is an idea created by the media, where they alter and dismantle women’s bodies to reflect what society thinks they should resemble. Research on eating disorders confirms that anorexia and bulimia are holding a prominent occurrence in our society (Currin, et al., 2005), which is why it is important to study social media sites and what about these that is leading to such an increase in diagnosis. The diagnosis of eating disorders has continued to increase and so has the use of and dependence on social media. Coupled, this makes for both an important and compelling topic to explore since there is such a large population at risk due to their exposure of the content on these websites.
Body dissatisfaction is considered one of the risk factors in developing serious eating disorders (Stice & Shaw, 2002). Christopher Ferguson, a researcher at Texas A&M International University defines body dissatisfaction as disapproval of one’s body and the belief that it is unattractive in comparison to other peoples’ bodies. Between forty and fifty percent of women experience body dissatisfaction at some level (Bearman et al., 1997). Social media sites portray images of the ideal ‘perfect body’ which may be a contributing factor to body dissatisfaction.

There are various social media websites that contain images that are both motivating young girls to participate in disordered eating behaviors, as well as creating body dissatisfaction. The websites we will focus on are Tumblr and Pinterest, because of how similar the social sites are. Tumblr is a social media blog that according to the site itself, “effortlessly lets you share anything.” Tumblr was founded in 2007 and is 19th on the list of top sites visited in the United States; the site has about 178.4 million blogs, 81.3 billion posts, and an average of about 106,436,186 daily posts (Karp, 2007). The site allows users to upload, post, reblog, “like”, and write posts as well as comment on virtually anything on the site. On the other hand, Pinterest is a more recently generated social site that was launched in 2010, the site allows Pinners (Pinterest user) “to pin” various images and organize them using boards. As of 2013, Pinterest has about 70 million users and of those users, 82% are female (Bik & Goldstein, 2013). The average Pinner spends about 98...

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