According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook has kept a study secret for two years that reveals its Instagram program makes body image concerns worse for teenage girls. Facebook has long been suspected of downplaying the influence of its portals on the public's overall health and well-being.
Facebook has been studying the state of mind of its younger users when using Instagram since 2019 and possibly longer. It has been proven in their studies that it is hazardous to some teenage girls. This research was cited by The Wall Street Journal. It's worth mentioning that Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the Wall Street Journal, is an outspoken critic of social media and has attacked TikTok in his UK publications.
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"We exacerbate body image issues for one in every three teen girls," according to a slide from an internal presentation seen by the Wall Street Journal in 2019. "Thirty-two per cent of adolescent females"
Facebook also admitted: “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”
Facebook who has owned Instagram since 2012 have been aware of the impact of their uber-successful picture sharing App on teenagers for several years. However, Adam Mosseri, the Instagram boss, says the impact is probably “quite small”.
Facebook did not expect the focus groups, online surveys and diary studies in 2019 and 2020 to be so revealing and powerful.
A “mental health deep dive”, by marketing, product design executives and data scientists at Facebook determined that issues such as “social comparison”, were specific to Instagram.
“Aspects of Instagram exacerbate each other to create a perfect storm,” said one internal report, which said pressure to share only the best moments and to look perfect could pitch teenagers into depression, low self-esteem and eating disorders.
Instagram users who reported suicidal thoughts, as high as 13% in the UK and 6% in the US traced them back to Instagram. 40% of Instagram users who reported feeling “unattractive” said the feeling began on the app; about a quarter of the teenagers who reported feeling “not good enough” blame Instagram. Ian Russell, father of suicide victim Molly says simply 'Facebook and Instagram can not be trusted with our children's well-being.
Facebook’s internal conclusions echo studies that implicate social media in an epidemic of mental health problems among young people.
A spokesperson for 5Rights Foundation, which campaigns for changes to digital services to make them more suitable for children and young people, said: “Facebook’s own research is a devastating indictment of the carelessness with which it, and the tech sector more broadly, treats children.
“In pursuit of profit these companies are stealing children’s time, self-esteem and mental health, and sometimes tragically their lives … This is an entirely human-made world, largely privately owned, designed to optimise for commercial purposes – it does not have to be like this. It is time to optimise for the safety, rights and wellbeing of kids first – and then, only then – profit.”
Facebook responded with this link in which Instagram’s head of public policy, Karina Newton said the story “focused on a limited set of findings and casts them in a negative light”.
“Issues like negative social comparison and anxiety exist in the world, so they’re going to exist on social media too,” Newton said. “That doesn’t change the fact that we take these findings seriously, and we set up a specific effort to respond to this research and change Instagram for the better.”
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