Add a new one to the list of dangers to watch out for in 2013 – Facebook makes you fat, or so we’re now being warned. Not a remarkable find on the surface given the way in which modern technology has never promoted fresh air and exercise for the most part, but the latest study on our favorite social media sites has drawn a few conclusions that might come as a surprise.
Rather than encouraging weight gain and poor health by having the masses planted on their behinds for hours on end every day, Facebook has been ‘accused’ of making its users fat by increasing the overall self-esteem of those with strong online relationships, which in turn leads to a decrease in self-control…again, so we’re told.
Roughly translated, researchers are now telling us that following enjoyable chats with our online friends, we are far more likely to resist the urges to indulge in unhealthy snacks, meals and drinks, once we’ve signed out.
The new study, which originates from the University of Pittsburgh, offers data that suggests this lack of self-control spurred by online socializing could be contributing to weight gain more significantly than the fact that user of Facebook and other such sites are usually motionless for extensive periods of time.
Now published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the team behind the study stated that “Using online social networks can have a positive effect on self-esteem and well-being. However, these increased feelings of self-worth can have a detrimental effect on behavior.
“Because consumers care about the image they present to close friends, social network use enhances self-esteem in users who are focused on close friends while browsing their social network. This momentary increase in self-esteem leads them to display less self-control after browsing a social network.”
A total of five studies were carried out on the way in which people generally use Facebook in order to see how their social networking habits affected or altered their behavior while offline. When the data was collated, it appeared as though there was a direct correlation between their social networking activities and their subsequent self-control in terms of what they ate and their spending patterns.
Generally speaking, those who regularly use Facebook and chat with their contacts regularly online seemed significantly more prone to ‘pigging-out’ on junk food and snacks and those were more prone to obesity. What’s more, they were also found to be more susceptible to debt.
By contrast, those the use Facebook to keep in touch with acquaintances only on an infrequent basis as opposed to their closest friends were found to exercise much greater restraint in both food and financial matters.
Given the fact that over a billion people the world over are known to use Facebook, the study suggests that vast swathes of the global population may be at risk without even realizing it.
“Given that self-control is important for maintaining social order and personal well-being, this subtle effect could have widespread impact,” so say the scientists behind the study.