Lots of things can make you gain weight, but can Facebook actually make you fat? A new study says yes. Wait, how the heck does that work?
Apparently, interacting with your pals on Facebook can up your self-esteem, which is awesome, right? Right. Unfortunately, a side effect of that raised self-esteem is less self control, which can affect what you eat–and how much you eat of it.
A new study says that people who use Facebook most have a body mass index (BMI) of about 26, while people who log in less are at about 24. (A normal BMI is typically between 18 and 24.9, but BMI isn’t necessarily an indicator of health–it doesn’t account for muscle weight, which weighs more than fat, and there’s a lot more to the equation than this!) High Facebook use was also linked to binge eating, but again, correlation doesn’t mean causation. But it does make you think about those times you sort of plowed through a bag of Doritos without even realizing it while you were lurking your ex’s pictures. Ahem.
Further, the more time you spend on your newsfeed instead of reading the actual news appears to have an effect on your food choice: People in a study who read their Facebook feed for a while and people who read the news were each given the choice between a cookie and a granola bar. The Facebook users chose the cookie, while most of the news readers took the granola bar. Again, it may just be this particular panel–if you’re truly hungry, too, you’ll probably spring for a granola bar, too. There are a lot of different things at play here.
One of the researchers explained it like this: The self-esteem boost you get from Facebook is what may ultimately make you fat, not Facebook itself. “A bit of self-awareness can help you avoid engaging in this behavior. Facebook is not the problem. It’s the feeling of entitlement that’s the problem.”
That’s because it’s a self-esteem boost that is sort of artificial: It’s not the kind of feeling good about yourself that comes from actually doing things or accomplishing something, like, say, working out. And when you get the rush of 50 Facebook “likes” in a row, you’re more likely to want to hang around and surf your social network a bit more instead of heading out for a sprint, right? And when you’re vegging out, you’re also more prone to reach for junk food. When you feel good about yourself and cookies are nearby, you’re sort of like, “Hey, I earned it!” See the pattern here?
At the end of the day, Facebook can’t really make you fat. And if something improves your self-esteem, dude–we’re all for it, because we think you’re awesome, and we want you to know you’re rad, too. But just make sure you have a balance between your awesome digital life and your awesome real life–so your self-esteem isn’t dictated by comments on your Facebook status. You’re better than that!
Do you pick at junk food while you’re on Facebook? Does Facebook up your self-esteem or make you feel crappy? Do you think Facebook can really make you fat? Tell us in the comments!