We all know that social media can have a detrimental effect on our mental health. It’s especially bad for teenagers and children. But what we didn’t know was that Facebook is fully aware of these dangers. Yet they’ve chosen to keep this internal research private. Thankfully, thanks to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, we’re now fully in the know.
Facebook: We Know That Instagram Is Harmful To Teenagers
According to internal research from Facebook that was leaked to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook found that Instagram exacerbated body image issues, anxiety, and depression, and that these effects were more pronounced in teenage girls, sharing that “Social comparison is worse on Instagram,” and that “Aspects of Instagram exacerbate each other to create a perfect storm.”
The perfect storm
“32 percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse …Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”
These are a few of the slides from a 2019 presentation of corporate data, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Journal also reported that the research has been reviewed by top Facebook executives. In fact, according to the documents, it was cited in a 2020 presentation given to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
How exactly is Instagram so harmful?
One word – algorithm.
Algorithm picks up on what content you regularly engage with and then tailors your Explore page accordingly. Now, this can make navigating the app so much easier, but can also leave you bombarded with content. Before long, you’re comparing yourself with others, and you’re also developing body image issues.
What do Facebook and Instagram have to say for themselves?
“The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits,” said Mark Zuckerberg said at a congressional hearing in March.
Additionally, Karina Newton, the head of public policy at Instagram, wrote a blog post. In it, she said that the internal research showed “our commitment to understanding complex and difficult issues young people may struggle with, and informs all the work we do to help those experiencing these issues”.
How can Instagram do better?
Phillippa Diedrichs is a leading body image researcher. She has previously worked as a paid consultant for Instagram in the past. Speaking to TIME, Diedrichs shared that diversity on social media can help to positively influence mental health and body image.
She also shared how Instagram has enough tools at its disposal to take appropriate action,
“It’s things like: how do you make it easier for users to find content that can be beneficial for wellbeing, or be directed to that content?” she said,
“If you notice that users are engaging in behaviors or viewing a lot of content that might be potentially harmful to them, how might you nudge them to say, hey, we’ve noticed that you’re looking at this, you’ve been spending a lot of time looking at this, would you like to look at something else?”