Facebook’s Internal Research Reveals Instagram is Dangerously Toxic for Teen Girls
According to the WSJ.com, Facebook’s own research confirms that Instagram poses a substantial teen mental-health issue, and Facebook appears to be downplaying the danger publicly. The news report states that teen girls are developing eating disorders, committing suicide, and being hospitalized due to the professedly perfect lives and perfect bodies of Instagram influencers.
Instagram, a Facebook Incorporated company, has researchers studying the effects of Instagram on teenagers. Their research study confirmed there are a few serious problems with the app. According to the researchers, thirty-two percent of teenaged girls reported feeling bad about their bodies, and Instagram made the teenagers “feel worse.” The research was presented back in March 2020 as a slide presentation and was posted to Facebook’s internal message board. The slide presentation has also been examined and reported on by The Wall Street. The researchers concluded that “comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.” Over the past three years, the research has shown that Instagram is harmful for a large portion of its users, especially teenage girls.
One of the presentation’s slides states that teenagers accuse Instagram of increasing their rate of anxiety and depression. The presentation also stated that this reaction was not prompted and was consistent in all age groups.
Tragically, the presentation also reported that 6% of American Instagram users linked their desire to commit suicide to Instagram, and 13% of British users reported having suicidal thoughts. Approximately 40% of Instagram’s users are under the age of 23. There are about 22 million U.S. teenagers who log onto Instagram every day. There are only five million teenagers using Facebook. In order for Instagram to grow its annual revenue, it must expand its base of young users, and the company doesn’t want to risk damaging user engagement with the platform. Teenagers in the U.S. spend about 50% more time on Instagram than Facebook.
According to the WSJ.com news article, Facebook has been consistent in its efforts to downplay the adverse effects Instagram has on teenagers. Instagram head Adam Mosseri stated to reporters that he has research he had seen suggests the app’s effects on teen well-being is likely “quite small.” He stated that he thinks Facebook was late in recognizing the drawbacks of connecting people in large numbers.
Facebook’s internal documents show that Facebook has made very little effort to address the issues, and the company hid the issues publicly. Their researchers also concluded that some problems were “specific to Instagram, and not social media more broadly.” Especially when users “assess their own value in relation to the attractiveness, wealth and success of others.”
According to Facebook, “social comparison is worse on Instagram” because Instagram focuses profoundly on people’s lifestyles and bodies. The features identified as the most harmful to teenagers seem to be at the platform’s core. Instagram users tend to only share their best moments and add pressure to appear perfect. The product’s addictive properties are sending teenagers into eating disorders, depression and give teens an unhealthy sense of their own bodies, according to the March 2020 internal research. The study also warns that the algorithm manipulates the “Explore page,” sending users deep into videos and photos that can be harmful. The research presentation stated that there are “aspects of Instagram that exacerbate each other to create a perfect storm.”
A 17-year-old girl who uses Instagram stated that she and her friends often feel ‘addicted’ to Instagram and also feel unable to stop using the app. She said, “if you wanted to show your friends what you were doing, you had to go on Instagram. We’re leaning towards calling it an obsession.” She and her friend surveyed their peers and found that 90% of those polled believed “social media negatively affected their mental health.”
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