According to clinical psychologist Esther Altmann, writing on the MyJewishLearning website, "Anorexia and bulimia are most prevalent within upwardly mobile demographic groups, and are amongst the most emotionally and physically devastating disorders affecting young Jewish women. The Jewish community has become increasingly aware that eating disorders are a serious health concern and, in some cases, a life threatening condition."
The fact that eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are so common among Jewish women means that the Jewish community should pay special attention to a new study by Prof. Yael Letzer, Prof. Ruth Katz and Zohar Spivak of University of Haifa in Israel. According to Viva Sarah Press, there is a connection between Facebook and eating disorders. According to the University of Haifa study, young women who frequently use the social networking site are more susceptible to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
The researchers looked at two factors involved in eating disorders: exposure to the media and personal empowerment. They also found that exposure to fashion and music on the Internet led to eating disorders, but that connection was weaker than the link Facebook generated.
The Haifa researchers polled 248 secular girls aged 12 to 18 on their media consumption, specifically their exposure to magazines, the Internet and TV. The study showed that girls who spent the most time on Facebook were most likely to suffer from poor body image, anorexia and bulimia. Because Facebook puts the focus on an individual – on one’s looks, habits and behaviors – the authors suggested that this single-mindedness is what triggered appearance complexities.
"Facebook holds up a mirror – make that a magnifying glass – to society and adds visibility to things that already happen. So with respect to eating disorders, social media gives females more opportunity to compare themselves with their peer group and others," wrote AllFacebook, the unofficial Facebook blog.
Press concluded her article by noting that simply cutting children off Facebook is not the answer. Instead, the researchers showed that parents who interacted with their children about the content they consumed online were more likely to inspire empowerment and a better body image, and as such protected them from eating disorders. Their conclusions were that parental involvement, caring and supervision would influence the young girls’ sense of self and minimize the risk of anorexia and bulimia.