Facebook knows that Instagram is damaging the minds of adolescents … and decides to shut up

Facebook officials conducted an internal investigation in March 2020 that showed that Instagram, the social media platform most used by teenagers, is damaging to adolescent girls’ body image and well-being, but they swept those findings under the rug to continue doing business as usual, according to un informe del Wall Street Journal September 14, 2021.

Facebook’s policy of seeking profit regardless of documented damage has drawn comparisons to Big Tobacco, who in the 1950s knew their products were carcinogenic, but they publicly denied it in the 21st century. Those of us who study teen social media use don’t need a suppressed internal research study to find out that Instagram can harm teens. Many peer-reviewed research articles show the same thing.

Understanding the impact of social media on teens is important because almost all teens go online on a daily basis. A Pew Research Center survey shows that 89% of teens report that they are online “almost constantly” or “several times a day”.

Teens are more likely to log into Instagram than any other social media site. It is a ubiquitous part of teenage life. However, studies consistently show that the more often teens use Instagram, worse is your general well-being, your self-esteem, your life satisfaction, your mood and your body image. One study found that the more college students used Instagram on any given day, worse was his mood and satisfaction with life that day.

Unhealthy comparisons

But Instagram is not problematic simply because it is popular. There are two key features of Instagram that seem to make it particularly risky. First, it allows users to follow celebrities and peers alike, who can present a filtered and manipulated image of an unrealistic body along with a highly controlled impression of a perfect life.

While all social networks allow users to be selective in what they show the world, Instagram is known for its photo editing and filtering capabilities. Also, that is the popular platform among celebrities, models, and influencers. Facebook has been relegated to soccer’s uncool moms and grandparents. For teens, this seamless integration of celebrities and retouched versions of real-life peers presents an environment conducive to upward social comparison, or to comparing oneself to someone who is “better” in some way.

Human beings, as a rule, look to others to find out how to fit in and judge their own lives. Adolescents are especially vulnerable to these social comparisons. Almost everyone remembers worrying about fitting in in high school. Instagram exacerbates that concern. It’s hard enough comparing yourself to a supermodel who looks fantastic (albeit leaked); It can be even worse when the leaked comparison is Natalie down the hall.

Negatively comparing yourself to others leads people to envy of the seemingly better lives and bodies of others. Recently, researchers even tried to combat this effect reminding Instagram users that the posts weren’t realistic.

It did not work. Negative comparisons, which were almost impossible to stop, still generated envy and lowered self-esteem. Even in studies where participants knew that photos displayed on Instagram were retouched and reshaped, teenage girls felt even worse about their bodies after seeing them. For girls who tend to make a lot of social comparisons, these effects are even worse.

Objectification and body image

Instagram is also risky for teens because its emphasis on body images leads users to focus on how their bodies view others. Our research shows that for adolescent girls, and increasingly for adolescent boys, to think of their own bodies as the object of a photo increases worrying thoughts about how they see others, and that leads to shame for their bodies. Just taking a selfie to post later makes them feel worse about how others see.

Being an object for others to see does not help the “selfie generation” feel empowered and confident; it can do the exact opposite. These are not insignificant health problems, because body dissatisfaction during adolescence is a powerful and consistent predictor of later eating disorder symptoms.

Facebook has internally recognized what researchers have been documenting for years: Instagram can be harmful to teens. Parents can help repeatedly talking to their teens about the difference between appearance and reality, encouraging them to interact with their peers face-to-face and to use their bodies actively rather than focusing on the selfie.

The big question will be how does Facebook handle these harmful results. History and the courts have been less than lenient on Big Tobacco’s head-in-the-box approach.

This article was translated by El Financiero.

Christia Spears Brown, Professor of Psychology, University of Kentucky

This article was originally published on The Conversation. read the original.


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