Instagram is aware of being harmful for “one in three young girls”

In a long survey, the Wall Street Journal reveals that the social network is fully aware of its impact on its younger users. According to documents consulted by the newspaper, some young people believe that Instagram is the source of their discomfort.

Instagram would be harmful for some users, especially younger ones. And the platform is fully aware of this, according to a study and several internal Facebook documents. ” 32% of girls said Instagram made them feel worse about themselves “, Explains in particular a note of 2020. An impressive figure, but which is nothing new: in 2019, a document had circulated internally, explaining that Instagram gave” a negative image of herself to one in three young girls “.

It is a long investigation of the Wall Street Journal published on September 14 which was able to bring to light these documents. In the first part of Facebook Files, as the newspaper nicknamed its research, the Wall Street Journal had notably noted the fact that everyone did not benefit from the same treatment on Facebook or Instagram. Well-known personalities are particularly entitled to more flexible moderation.

In its new article, the Wall Street Journal this time looked at the problem of the mental health of Instagram users, especially younger ones. And the result is chilling in its magnitude – and the fact that Facebook failed to take adequate action to tackle all of the problems Instagram created, despite the social network being aware of their existence.

Looking at photos of influencers on Instagram is harmful for the younger users of the platform // Source: Kate Torline / Unsplash

Alarming figures

All the data the newspaper has been able to obtain comes from numerous studies, commissioned by Facebook for three years. They provide a very comprehensive view of the site and its effects on its users – but their conclusions have never been shared. And above all, Facebook kept them secret, says the Wall Street Journal.

It must be said that the results of this survey are particularly bad for Facebook and Instagram, and the figures are final. ” Comparing yourself to other women on Instagram can change the way young girls see themselves », Explains a document shared in 2020 on Facebook’s internal messaging service, and which the Wall Street Journal was able to consult. ” Teens Believe Instagram is Responsible for Rising Depressions, Growing Anxiety », Is it written in another note. Worse, 13% of young Britons who have had thoughts of suicide and 6% of Americans believe they are due to Instagram.

These are not the only figures that make you dizzy. In another study cited by the Wall Street Journal and conducted among adolescents in the United States and the United Kingdom, 40% of users who find themselves ” unattractive Would believe that this feeling is linked in part to Instagram. The updated documents also mention the feeling of addiction that many young people would experience. ” Teens don’t like the number of hours they spend on Instagram “, Is it written on one of the documents consulted by the Wall Street Journal,” but they have the impression of having to be present anyway […]. They can’t stop even though they know it’s bad for their mental health “. A behavior unfortunately largely reinforced last year by the Covid pandemic and confinements.

Facebook is doing nothing to change things

There is even more serious than these impressive numbers and the supposed correlation between Instagram and discomfort among young Instagram users: the fact that Facebook knew about it, and would have, for years, minimized its harmful effects.

Mark Zuckerberg, in 2019 // Source: Anthony Quintano / Wikimedia Commons

The hypocrisy of Mark Zuckerberg is also raised by the newspaper. The CEO of Facebook said in March 2021 during a hearing with US senators that the platform’s research had only concluded that ” the possibility of being connected to other people can have a positive impact on health. “

The Wall Street Journal documents also show that Facebook’s initiatives to address user anxiety are not at all adequate. Being able to hide the number of likes received on these publications, a feature available since May 2021, was notably criticized internally, because it would not have ” nothing changed to the problem According to a note presented to Mark Zuckerberg.

However, this option has nevertheless been made available on the platform, because Facebook executives have explained to the CEO that the measure could make them see well.

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