Why some Facebook users have a perception of worsening physical health

Why some Facebook users have a perception of worsening physical health
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Facebook use has been linked to a perception of worsening physical health in some Facebook users, according to new research from the University of Surrey.

The researchers investigated the relationship between the use of the social media site and Facebook users’ perceptions of worsening physical health.

One hundred and sixty five participants were surveyed to identify levels of comparison with others on Facebook, self-esteem rates, perceptions of physical health, and life satisfaction.

Perceptions of worsening physical health

Researchers found that the Facebook users who compared themselves to others on Facebook showed a greater awareness of physical ailments, such as:

  • Sleep problems;
  • Weight change; and
  • Muscle tension.

The researchers believe that those who compare themselves with others on Facebook may perceive more physical symptoms. Equally, they believe that those who perceive more symptoms may compare more with others on Facebook.

The participants who perceived more physical symptoms were females and those experiencing anxiety or depression. The participants who were more satisfied with their lives and had high self-esteem rates were associated with perceiving fewer physical symptoms.

Social comparison to other Facebook users

Social comparison is a process where comparisons are made to others to evaluate our own lives. Social comparison is more likely to occur when we feel uncertain about our situation.

Dr Bridget Dibb, Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology at the University of Surrey, said: “Comparing ourselves to others is not a new concept; however, with the rise of social media it is becoming a part of our everyday lives.

“An entity like Facebook, with 2.27 billion active monthly users, has never existed before. The long term effect it has on individuals is unknown, but it is clear that comparison with others is associated with perceptions of ill-health. Users need to be aware of how they feel when they use sites like Facebook and recognise the dangers of comparisons in this context.”

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