London – Surveys conducted over the past two years by Facebook, which have been kept confidential, confirm that the company is aware that Instagram aggravates body image problems among teenage girls, and that it is concerned about the effect on young people.
An internal presentation, with slides showing the results of these studies, was seen by the Wall Street Journal, which revealed the story on Tuesday (14/9).
“We make body image problems worse for one in three teenagers,” said a slide from a 2019 presentation seen by the American newspaper.
“32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” reported another presentation in March 2020.
Among the most worrisome findings was that, among users who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% in the UK and 6% in the US tracked them on Instagram.
Instagram would be the “perfect storm” to worsen the mental health of young people
Bringing together results from in-depth interviews, online polls, and daily polls in 2019 and 2020, Instagram’s research shows for the first time how the company is on the impact of its product on the mental health of its users.
One of the slides stated: “Teens blame Instagram for the increase in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was spontaneous and consistent across all groups. ”
According to the report, researchers warned that “Instagram’s Explore page, which offers user-curated posts, could lead to content that could be harmful.”
And that “the application also has the culture of posting only the best photos and moments, and it works as an addictive product”.
“Aspects of Instagram escalate to create a perfect storm,” the survey said, according to the Journal.
As recently as March, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said that social media was more likely to have positive effects on mental health. In May, Instagram manager Adam Mosseri said he had seen research suggesting that its effects on teens’ mental health were likely “too small.”
Instagram claims to be studying “youth experiences”
Instagram’s top executives had access to the polls, according to the Wall Street Journal, and she was cited in a presentation last year to Zuckerberg.
Young users are critical to Instagram’s success. More than 40% of people on the social network are 22 years old or younger, according to the American newspaper.
In a blog post, Instagram’s head of public policy Karina Newton confirmed that the platform has been doing internal research “to understand young people’s Instagram experiences”.
She criticizes the Wall Street Journal report for having “focused on a limited set of findings and treating them negatively”, but admits that the social network has been trying to “understand complex and difficult issues that young people may be facing dealing”.
“The question on many minds is whether social media is good or bad for people. Research on this gives mixed results: it could be both.”
Instagram representative suggests that social network amplifies existing mood
Newton says that “what seems most important is how people use social media and their state of mind when they use it”, and cites research that deals with social networks in a broad way, without particularizing a single network, taking the focus away from Instagram .
One is a Pew Research Center study of teenagers in the United States, pointing out that 81% of them said that social media makes them feel more connected with their friends, while 26% reported that social media makes them feel worse about their lives. .
“Our results were similar,” says Newton. She says many teens say Instagram makes things better or has no effect on their lives, but some, especially those who were already feeling bad, said Instagram could make things worse.
About the confidentiality of the research, revealed by the American newspaper, Karina Newton said that the social network “wants to be more transparent about the research it does, both internally and in collaboration with external researchers.