By: Ilana Siyance
Facebook has done the research, and knows of the mental health implications Instagram can have on teenagers. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, for the past three years, Facebook Inc., which owns Instagram, has been studying the effect its photo-sharing app has on its millions of young users. The company’s researchers have repeatedly found that Instagram is harmful for a significant percentage of users–in particular teenage girls. “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”
At the influential and sensitive age, the girls are exposed to an endless feed of perfect bodies, unattainable perfection and influencers who show off only their finest moments.
“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said another slide from the same internal March 2020 presentation. “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” added another slide. Moreover, among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced their desire to kill themselves to Instagram, as per one slide.
Roughly 22 million teens in the U.S. use Instagram daily, compared with five million teens logging into Facebook. Instagram has more appeal for the younger generation, with over 40 percent of Instagram’s users under the age of 22, as per the company materials. Also, teens in the U.S. spend an average of 50 percent more time on Instagram than Facebook. “Instagram is well positioned to resonate and win with young people,” said a slide.
Facebook, however, has sought to publicly downplay the negative impact the social app has on youth. As per the WSJ, it has not made its research available publicly for academics or even lawmakers who have requested it.
“For me, this isn’t dirty laundry. I’m actually very proud of this research,” Instagram head Adam Mosseri has said regarding the topic. “There’s a lot of good that comes with what we do.” He added that the info just isn’t public “for a number of reasons.”
“If you believe that R.J. Reynolds should have been more truthful about the link between smoking and lung cancer, then you should probably believe that Facebook should be more upfront about links to depression among teen girls,”said Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University who has published research which shows that social media is harmful for some youngsters.