Looking good on Facebook

Alison Bowerman, staff

We’ve all heard of the infamous Facebook lurker; it could be your mom, your ex boyfriend, that girl in your English class, or maybe your great aunt from up north. The part we never seem to realize and admit to is that we’ve got a little bit of lurker in all of us. Let’s be honest- haven’t you ever taken a peek at that girl from your high school’s trip to Cancun? Haven’t you checked out an old girlfriend or boyfriend’s new squeeze? I’ll admit it. I look at the girls my best guy friends are into. I take a peek at the pictures the girls I envied in high school are tagged in. Facebook has become such a major part of our culture that I have never stopped myself to ask, why? I don’t follow these people around in the real world, so why do I follow them around on the Internet through wall posts, tags and status updates?

It was a study by Dr. Amy Slater at Australia’s Flinders University that made me think about the time I spend on Facebook in a new light. Dr. Slater surveyed 1100 adolescent girls across South Australia and found 40 per cent of these girls to be unhappy with their bodies; girls who spent more time on the Internet were found to be less satisfied with their bodies than girls who spent more time doing homework.

Facebook users, particularly girls, often spend their time looking at other girls’ photos with one question in mind: “How do I measure up?” Girls are constantly sifting through photos comparing themselves to the girls in the photos. Sometimes they don’t even know the girls that they envy.

Our Facebook profiles are very personal things. They tell our life stories but in a way, for the most part, we can control. We can pick and choose our profile photos, who we claim as our ‘friend’ and the work and education information we display. We expect people to look at our profiles and we want to leave the right impression when they do. This might be very different for middle-aged women than it is for a teenage girl. Success as a teenager is most often displayed through appearance; therefore the pictures they choose are often extremely important and well thought out. These photos may be a snap shot of a girl as her very best, so it’s no wonder we come up short in comparison.

I cannot help but feel that this isn’t as nosey a habit as it’s made out to be. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not condoning Facebook stalking as an extra curricular activity. I think it’s more about our own insecurities than our need to know what the people around us are doing. Girls, myself included, rush home after a night out and log on to Facebook to see if the photos are posted yet. No matter how wonderful the night was, an embarrassing photo or two could ruin it. If our arms look big, our makeup was smudged or we hated our outfit we worry that the people who weren’t even there will judge us – not based on where we were, whom we were with, or even how much fun we may have had, but strictly based on how we look in the pictures. To me, this is an extremely stressful thought.

Rebecca Laman, a 20-year-old Concurrent Education student at Laurier Brantford, says she feels the pressure to judge her own appearance based on those of others. Since she worries about how she measures up, she says, “I don’t spend a lot of time looking at other girls’ photos, mainly because I find it takes up a lot of time, and will make me feel self conscious.” If a woman of her age has to resist the temptation of looking at these photos, I can’t help but wonder, do young girls have the restraint to stop comparing as well?

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