An internal study conducted by Facebook officials in March 2020 showed that Instagram (the social media platform most commonly used by teenagers) is harmful to girls’ body image and well-being, but according to a report, Facebook officials hid these findings and continued Do business as usual. On September 14, 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Facebook’s policy of pursuing profit regardless of documented harm has triggered a comparison with Big Tobacco, which knew its products were carcinogenic in the 1950s, but publicly denied it in the 21st century. Those of us who study social media use among teenagers do not need to conduct repressive internal research to know that Instagram harms teenagers. A large number of peer-reviewed research papers show the same thing.
It is important to understand the impact of social media on young people, because almost all young people go online every day. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 89% of teenagers said they “almost always” or “a few times a day”.
Teens are more likely to log on to Instagram than any other social media site. It is a ubiquitous part of teenagers’ lives. However, studies consistently show that the more frequently adolescents use Instagram, the worse their overall happiness, self-esteem, life satisfaction, emotion, and body image. A study found that the more college students use Instagram on a given day, the worse their mood and life satisfaction that day.
But Instagram is not problematic just because it is popular. Instagram has two key features that seem to make it particularly dangerous. First, it allows users to follow celebrities and peers at the same time, and they can both show processed and filtered pictures of unrealistic bodies, as well as highly curated impressions of a perfect life.
Although all social media allow users to choose to show the world’s content, Instagram is notorious for its photo editing and filtering capabilities. In addition, this is a platform that is popular with celebrities, models and influencers. Facebook has been relegated to being an uncool football mom and grandparent. For teenagers, this seamless fusion of modified versions of celebrities and real peers provides a mature environment for upward social comparison or comparing themselves with people who are “better” in some respects.
As a general rule, humans want others to know how to adapt and judge their own lives. Young people are particularly vulnerable to these social comparisons. Almost everyone remembers worrying about adapting to high school. Instagram has exacerbated this concern. Comparing yourself with a supermodel that looks great (albeit filtered) is difficult enough; when the filtered comparison is Natalie in the lobby, the situation can be worse.
Negative comparisons of oneself with others can cause people to be jealous of others’ seemingly better lives and bodies. Recently, researchers have even tried to combat this effect by reminding Instagram users that these posts are impractical.
It is useless. Negative comparisons that can hardly stop can still lead to jealousy and lower self-esteem. Even in the study where participants knew that the photos they showed on Instagram were retouched and reshaped, adolescent girls still felt worse about their bodies after watching 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 teenagers, because its emphasis on body pictures leads users to pay attention to how their bodies look in the eyes of others. Our research shows that for teenage girls — and more and more teenage boys — using their bodies as the subject of photographs increases concerns about their own perceptions in the eyes of others, which can lead to I feel ashamed of my body. Just taking a selfie and posting it later will make them feel worse about how they look in others’ eyes.
Being the object of other people’s viewing does not help the “selfie generation” feel powerful and confident-it can do exactly the opposite. These are not unimportant health issues, because dissatisfaction with the body during adolescence is a powerful and consistent predictor of later eating disorder symptoms.
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Facebook internally acknowledged what researchers have been recording for years: Instagram can be harmful to teenagers. Parents can help by repeatedly discussing the difference between appearance and reality with their teenagers, encouraging their teenagers to interact face-to-face with their peers and use their bodies in a positive way instead of focusing on selfies.
The biggest question is how Facebook handles these destructive results. History and the courts are not tolerant of Big Tobacco’s head-on approach.