Facebook’s secret studies say Instagram is bad for teens. But the social network does nothing

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The story is always the same: how much does the reality of Instagram on the psychological health of users, and in particular of the users? Now we have a clear answer: a lot. Very very much. It is no coincidence that in 2019 the social network controlled by Facebook had launched a test on a global scale eliminating the total count of likes under the posts, Photo and video. Objective: to guarantee less frustration and a more serene context in comparison with the feedback collected from other users, perhaps those most followed with thousands, if not tens of thousands, of followers.

In that case, the group explained that they had started from a series of studies that, in fact, had shown these side effects on the psyche and self-esteem of users. The hidden side, which he was careful not to specify, is that unmotivated users who do not post are ghost users who are worth less.

This time it’s the Wall Street Journal to return to the point. Revealing, after an initial investigation that had revealed the much wider margin of maneuver granted by Facebook to celebrities (the rules, in short, do not apply to everyone), a series of internal documents full of investigations e internal studies, designed to be shared between employees and managers of the platform. And which the financial daily gave an account of. Not without adding further, worrying elements to an already well-known picture.

In a slide that cites one of these studies, for example, we read that about a third of teenage girls not comfortable with their bodies believe that Instagram only makes the situation worse. On the other hand, another survey of British and American teenagers shows how 40% of young people found themselves inadequate or considered themselves unattractive precisely as a result of the intensive use of Instagram. In short, like or not like – by the way, the little hearts have never completely disappeared and, indeed, they have recently been somewhat reintroduced leaving the choice to the user – little seems to have changed in the last couple of years.

According to the research unearthed by the WSJ, available to Facebook which would therefore not have found an effective way to balance these imbalances, the problem is Instagram. That is, it does not concern the social ecosystem as a whole but the videophotographic app (which will soon change its nature profoundly) and the psychological mechanism of continuous confrontation that is created towards others. Appearance, of course. But also style and standard of living, spending power, purchases, friendships, ease in proposing oneself – especially in stories – various privileges and successes. A deadly mix that according to the documents available to Menlo Park produces sensations of inadequacy, he deepens eating disorders and even causes sintomatologie depressive. In addition to the usual, well known, dependence.

In short, these highly secret internal studies that the group never wanted to share, not even with a couple of senators (the dem Richard Blumenthal and the republican Marsha Black) who also asked for them last August, prove at least two facts. The first, that Facebook is aware of how Instagram is dangerous to the mental health of teenage girls (and beyond). The second: that it has done nothing, or failed to do, to alleviate this alarming picture. Perhaps even, given the success of the application especially in certain demographic groups (over 40% of users are under the age of 22), he did not want to do anything, minimizing the effects in public. A story reported by the WSJ, that of the young Anastasia Vlasova, is the emblem of everything that can happen: “When I went to Instagram – says the girl, who is now 18 – all I saw were images of perfect bodies , perfect abs and women doing 100 burpeesin 1 0 minutes “. At the age of 13 he began a path of therapy to overcome an eating disorder.

Another slide shown internally also explains that “teens blame Instagram for the increased rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was spontaneous and consistent in all groups ». And among the teenagers who expressed suicidal thoughts, some (13% of Brits and 6% of Americans) have even expressed the desire to kill themselves on Instagram. These are probably dramatizations, but this is the climate under the carpet of the app. And this has practically always been the case, although periodically we also witness more or less spontaneous campaigns that instead aim at inclusiveness, body positivity, to recover and publish photos as one is and feels without superstructures. And the way the platform is organized, starting with the glossy Explore section, only makes the picture worse.

After the investigation the social replied to be looking for new ways to prevent users from over-focusing on their appearance. Karina Newton, Instagram’s chief of public policy, responded in a statement posted Tuesday that while Instagram can be a place where people have “bad experiences,” the app also gives a voice to people on the sidelines and helps friends and family stay in touch. He also explained that the internal research brought to light by the Journal – which five top managers and even Mark Zuckerberg himself in 2020 were aware of – “demonstrate the colossus’ commitment to understanding the complex and difficult issues with which young people can find themselves what to do and thus guide all the work we do to help those who experience these sensations. Instagram is increasingly busy dealing with negative social comparisonsAnd physical ones. One idea could be to push users to scroll through other types of content when the system verifies that it is fossilizing on this type of topic. Not much, for a platform that is now a victim of itself.

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