Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said that the average Facebook user spends about 40 minutes a day on the network. Putting that into perspective, only 20% of Americans actually fulfill the CDC’s recommended 21 minutes of daily exercise. Let’s break that down a bit further to uncover the shocking link between social media and obesity.

The Shocking Social Media and Obesity Link

The US Census Bureau estimated there were about 316.1 million Americans in 2013, 23.3% of whom were under 18. That gives us about 242.5 million American adults. In a January 2014 survey, Pew Research Internet Project concluded that 87% of adults in the US use the internet. In 2013, Pew Research found that 71% of online adults are Facebook users, which was a four percent increase from 2012.

So if 87% of American adults are using the internet, that’s about 211 million people. If 71% of those folks use Facebook, we’re looking at something in the neighborhood of 149.8 million American adults on Facebook. If only 20% of those people are getting at least 21 minutes of exercise a day, we have a whopping 119.8 million American adults who would seemingly rather sit around on Facebook than put the phone down, get outside, and do something.

Based on those numbers, it’s no wonder that just over two thirds of American adults are overweight or worse, and more than one third of US adults are obese. 78.6 million of them, to get specific, according to the CDC. If you thought that adult obesity is where the terrifying data ended, think again.

In the last 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents! In 1980, 7% of children and 5% of adolescents were obese, but those numbers jumped to 18% and 21% respectively by 2012. Furthermore, in 2012 one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

Today's World 

We’ve reached a point in the world today where we’re so immersed in digital media that TV stations need to tell kids to get outside and play! Nickelodeon actually has an annual event called Worldwide Day of Play, wherein they completely shut down all programming on Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, and TeenNick, as well as all of their websites, from 12PM to 3PM. If you turn any of their channels on during that time, you see a big, colorful screen that urges you to, “Get up, go outside and play!” and there’s a looping soundtrack of kids on a playground, laughing and running around.

Tech Industry

The tech industry is in its prime—we’re in a state of rapid development and innovation of all new ways to use technology that’s revolutionizing how we live our daily lives. So what are we doing about the obvious link between social media and obesity? It’s no secret that social media is an incredibly powerful tool for sharing and learning new things—we should be harnessing that influence to make sure that at least some of those 40 minutes a day are spent on making people aware of the importance of health and exercise.

Increase Awareness

How can we do that? For starters, with articles like this. Just talking about the detrimental link between social media and obesity will increase awareness and lead to social change. People aren’t going to start doing things differently if they don’t even realize that they’re hurting themselves—for many, spending an hour a day flipping through their Facebook Newsfeeds doesn’t seem like a waste, and they probably dismiss the idea that the time could be better spent.

Social Media Influencers

There are plenty of influencers on social media who promote healthy living and making smart choices about what we eat and what we do every day. Following these kinds of Twitter and Instagram accounts, or liking fitness-related Facebook pages are great ways to make sure that your time spent on social media is teaching you things you may not have already known about your body and ways you can treat it better.

Just recently, I saw a picture of a cheeseburger on Instagram and was like, “Wow, I’d kill for a cheeseburger right now.” Two pictures further down my feed, I saw a picture of a really fit girl standing at the edge of a cliff, and it said, “Name ONE healthy choice you’ll commit to making today & TAG a friend to see what theirs is. Let’s get accountable.” Let’s just say my plans for a cheeseburger went out the door after that.

Social media can have a tremendous influence on the decisions we make every, single day—is your social media activity having a positive or a negative effect on your offline choices? Join the conversation on our Facebook page about whether or not social media is making us fat.

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