Instagram can be dangerous to youth. Thirty-two percent of young, female Instagram subscribers are shown to be harmed by the social media platform. This is according to Facebook’s own study that it conducted in March 2020, which was revealed by The Wall Street Journal.
The report was so shocking that it has actually led to a bi-partisan push by U.S. senators. Senators Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut, and Marsha Blackburn, Republican from Tennessee and, the chair and ranking member of a Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, have announced plans to investigate Facebook over its knowledge of Instagram’s impact on teens, and specifically, teenaged girls.
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“Facebook knew this. They were watching. They were monitoring. But in search of that dollar and another dollar of profit, they did it anyway,” Blackburn told Fox News of Facebook’s internal Instagram report. “We’ve encouraged them not to market to children. We’ve encouraged them to restrict access and use for children [on] some of these platforms, but they’ve been hesitant to do that again because they’re interested in profit.”
Taw Wall Street Journal revealed internal information from Facebook to that effect. The paper cited one memo that said, “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls. Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.”
More than 40 percent of Instagram users are age 22 and younger. The research went on to show that people become depressed, and that youth are developing eating disorders and getting poor body images because of the platform. The fact that people only post the happy moments in their lives and so forth, said the research, makes Instagram addictive.
But Mark Zuckerberg directly contradicted this in March of this year. “The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits,” he said.
Karina Newton, Head of Public Policy at Instagram, has actually embraced the findings of the research. In a blog post, she asserted that the Wall Street Journal failed to show the positive findings in the research.
“At Instagram, we look at the benefits and the risks of what we do. We’re proud that our app can give voice to those who have been marginalized, that it can help friends and families stay connected from all corners of the world, that it can prompt societal change; but we also know it can be a place where people have negative experiences, as the Journal called out today,” she said. “Our job is to make sure people feel good about the experience they have on Instagram, and achieving that is something we care a great deal about.”
Newton said that the research on the effects of social media on people’s well-being is mixed. She asserted that social media isn’t inherently good or bad for people. “Many find it helpful one day, and problematic the next. What seems to matter most is how people use social media, and their state of mind when they use it,” she said.
But Adam Mosseri, Instagram’s head, did not help his company’s image with recent comments that he made about it.
“We know that more people die than would otherwise because of car accidents, but by and large cars create way more value in the world than they destroy,” said Mosseri. “And I think social media is similar.”