Facebook linked to binge eating, debt, poor self-control

Thursday, January 24, 2013 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: Facebook, self image, binge eating

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(NaturalNews) Among certain people, the use of Facebook may lead to inflated self-esteem, poor self-control, and risky or even self-destructive behavior, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Columbia Business School and published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"To our knowledge, this is the first research to show that using online social networks can affect self-control," coauthor Andrew T. Stephen said. "We have demonstrated that using today's most popular social network, Facebook, may have a detrimental affect on people's self-control."

The researchers conducted five separate studies on a total of more than 1,000 Facebook users residing in the United States. In the first study, participants answered a survey about whether they had weak or strong ties with their Facebook friends. Participants were then asked either to browse Facebook or just to write about the experience of browsing the site. The researchers found that regardless of whether they browsed the site or just wrote about it, participants who had strong ties with Facebook friends reported a self-esteem increase following the activity, but participants with weak ties to Facebook friends did not.

The next four studies focused only on participants who reported a strong connection to their Facebook friends. In the second study, participants were told to browse Facebook for five minutes, paying attention either to the information that they were sharing with others or to the information (such as status updates) that others were sharing with them. The researchers found that self-esteem increased only went participants focused on information about themselves that they were sharing with the world.

"We find that people experience greater self-esteem when they focus on the image they are presenting to strong ties in their social networks," coauthor Keith Wilcox said. "This suggests that even though people are sharing the same positive information with strong ties and weak ties on social networks, they feel better about themselves when the information is received by strong ties than by weak ties."

Bragging on Facebook causes lessened self-control?

In the third study, participants spent some time either browsing Facebook or reading news on CNN.com. They were then instructed to choose between eating a chocolate chip cookie or a granola bar. Participants in the Facebook group were significantly more likely to choose the cookie but participants in the news group. The fourth study, researchers were instructed to solve word puzzles after spending time either browsing Facebook or reading a celebrity gossip site. Participants who had spent time on Facebook were significantly more likely to abandon the puzzles unsolved. Both of these studies showed lessened self-control following Facebook use.

In the final study, participants completed questionnaires about their online social network use, height, weight, number of credit cards, credit card debt, the size of their offline friend group, and other life factors.

"The results suggest that greater social network use is associated with a higher body-mass index, increased binge eating, a lower credit score, and higher levels of credit-card debt for individuals with strong ties to their social network," the researchers wrote.



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