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Facebook research shows Instagram is harmful to teen girls’ body image

This week The Wall Street Journal (paywall) has published an exclusive report on the impact that Instagram has on the mental health of younger users and teen girls in particular.

The research on the matter reportedly comes from Facebook (which owns Instagram) itself, although the findings have not been publicly disclosed, likely given how damning it is.

To that end, it finds that Instagram is having a negative impact in terms of body image, with the algorithms used to drive engagement on the platform aimed specifically at content that forces you to compare yourself to others.

In the case of young girls, this can have a detrimental effect on how they view themselves.

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” an excerpt from the report explains in reference to figures reportedly gathered by Facebook.

While the full report is available via WSJ, some of the concerning elements include a Facebook study that allegedly found that more than 40 percent of teenagers in the US and UK reported feeling unattractive after using Instagram.

Another damning outcome from Facebook’s probing found that Instagram was highly addictive and teens wanted to engage less with the platform, but did not know how to do so.

“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” internal research from Facebook in 2019 pointed out. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups,” it adds.

Sticking with mental health, a Facebook’s research found that 13 percent of UK and 6 percent of US users could track their suicidal thoughts back to interactions on Instagram.

Who is to blame for this – Facebook, Instagram or social media in general? There can be quite a bit of finger pointing here, but the research shows that more needs to be done in terms of mental health and wellbeing on apps and social media platforms.

Perhaps the most damning aspect to all this, is that Facebook is aware of the problem, acknowledges it internally, but fails to do much about it.

Whether more will be done down the line remains to be seen, but this report is well worth reading given how ubiquitous Facebook and Instagram are in many peoples’ lives.

[Source – The Wall Street Journal]
[Image – Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash]

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