Researchers in the UK and the USA have completed some research into the effects of Facebook use on women’s body-image and their findings are actually the opposite of those I would expect if they had conducted the same research on vitiligo sufferers.
They found that more time on Facebook can lead to low self-image (at least among college students) because of a perception that others have better bodies and more beautiful faces by comparison with themselves.
881 female college students were surveyed about their Facebook use, eating and exercise habits, and body image. The results of the surveys enabled the researchers to predict how often the women felt negatively about their own bodies after looking at someone else’s photos or posts, and how often they compared their own bodies to those of their friends.
The study showed that the amount of time spent on Facebook was directly related to the severity of negative feelings and unfavourable comparisons. In particular, for women who want to lose weight, more time on Facebook led to more attention being paid to physical appearance.
In itself, this is obviously not a healthy phenomenon. However, on the other side of the coin, I would be very interested to know (if anyone fancies funding a study into this) to what extent Facebook – and social media in general – has the opposite effect on those people who have vitiligo.
I know that before the age of the internet, when my vitiligo was at its worst, I felt completely alone, as though no one else in the world could possibly be going through the same experience as me. As far as I could see everyone else was normal and I was a freak. I was convinced that no one else would be able to look at me without my makeup and carefully chosen clothing and find me remotely attractive.
But (ironically for me, now that my vitiligo is virtually gone) today there are scores of vitiligo support pages on Facebook, plus hundreds of other sites and forums on the internet where vitiligo friends can swap photos, tips, experiences and encouragement and where comparing one’s appearance with others actually reinforces a sense of belonging and normality and where people can start to see beauty where they never saw it before – in the mirror.
My name is Caroline.