Senior Facebook officials knew that Instagram, the popular photo-based social media platform it owns, can negatively impact mental health, body image and more for teens, especially. teenage girls, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Researchers who work for the social media giant found that some of the issues were specific to Instagram and not social media as a whole for teens, according to the Journal.
“Thirty-two percent of teenage girls said that when they felt bad in their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers explained in a March 2020 slide presentation posted on Facebook’s internal bulletin board, reviewed by the Journal. “Instagram comparisons can change the way young women see and describe themselves. ”
In a study of teenagers in the US and UK, Facebook found that over 40% of Instagram users who said they felt “unattractive” attributed that feeling to the platform.
One slide from 2019 said, “We make body image problems worse for one in three teenage girls. Another read, “Teens blame Instagram for increased rates of anxiety and depression,” according to the Journal.
One presentation said that among teens who have had suicidal thoughts, 13% of UK users and 6% of US users attributed their suicidal impulses to Instagram.
Researchers also found that Instagram had a negative impact on some teens.
While Facebook has taken some steps to potentially reduce negative impacts for teens, such as removing likes, the company has publicly downplayed Instagram’s impacts.
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Facebook research indicates that not all teens experience adverse effects from using the app. For many, connecting with peers and speaking out outweighed the potential for ‘negative social comparison’.
Karina Newton, public policy manager at Instagram, said in a statement in response to the Journal’s report: “Although the story focuses on a limited set of results and presents them in a negative light, we are maintaining this research.
“It demonstrates our commitment to understanding the complex and difficult issues that young people may face, and informs all the work we do to help those who experience these issues,” his statement continued.
She also said that “social media is not inherently good or bad for people” and that research on the effects of social media is “mixed.”
Some of the research published by the Journal was cited in presentations given to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., And Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Asked in August that Zuckerberg publish Facebook’s internal research on the impacts on youth mental health. Facebook sent Senators a six-page letter that did not include its own studies, the Journal noted.
Blumenthal and Blackburn, who are respectively chair and senior member of the Senate subcommittee on consumer protection, product safety and data security, announced on Tuesday that the subcommittee “will take additional steps to review Facebook’s knowledge of the negative impact of its platforms on adolescents and young users, ”according to a press release.
Instagram declined to comment on Blumenthal and Blackburn’s post.