The bomb dropped on Wall Street Journal, came into possession of the results of some studies conducted in great secrecy by the Menlo Park company. Studies that reveal a resounding epilogue: Facebook is aware that Instagram is dangerous for the mental health of teenage girls. The social media of photos with filters, bought by Facebook for a billion dollars in 2010, seems to have devastating effects on the psyche of many teen-agers. According to research, commissioned by Mark Zuckerberg’s own company, one in three girls with an Instagram account develops perception disorders of their own body. And even all the groups analyzed spontaneously accused social media of causing them anxiety and an increase in depressive tendencies. A disaster. Especially if placed in a potential context: some time ago, in fact, Facebook has long toyed with the idea of proposing a version of Instagram for children under 13. An idea that the American Congress has clearly rejected, blocking it in the bud. And it is strange to think that Facebook was perfectly aware of the damage caused by Instagram to teenagers, while pushing for an app dedicated to the under 13. “From a research we have seen, it emerges that the use of social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental health benefits, ”Mark Zuckerberg said at a congressional hearing in March 2021 when asked about children and mental health. Instead, apparently, it is the exact opposite.
The case of Anastasia
The investigation of the Journal tells of a teenager, Anastasia Vlasova, who started seeing a therapist. She developed an eating disorder and has a clear idea of what reduced her in those conditions: her time on Instagram. Anastasia joined the platform at 13 and ultimately spent three hours a day mesmerized by the seemingly perfect lives and bodies of fitness influencers. “When I went to Instagram – says the girl, now 18 – all I saw were images of perfect bodies, perfect abs and women doing 100 burpees [un genere particolare di flessioni a corpo libero, ndr] in 10 minutes ». And apparently, Anastasia’s is a very common fact. Because the Instagram researchers, who have been studying the undesirable effects of the platform since 2019, have discovered a Pandora’s box.
“32% of teenage girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” read a slide from the top secret study circulating in Facebook offices. Another wrote that “Teens blame Instagram for the increase in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was spontaneous and consistent in all groups ». Indeed, among the teenagers who have expressed suicidal thoughts, some of them have the desire to kill themselves on Instagram.
Facebook does not address the problem
The documents – as the Wall Street Journal – also show that Facebook has made minimal efforts to address these issues, and downplay them in public. Probably because Menlo Park know full well that Instagram is the fastest growing app in the entire group, and expanding its young user base is vital to the company’s more than $ 100 billion in annual revenue. Revenue that cannot be jeopardized.
Today, more than 40% of Instagram users are under the age of 22, and about 22 million teens log into Instagram every day in the U.S., compared to five million teens logging into Facebook, where young users have been decreasing for now. ten years. On average, teens in the US spend 50% more time on Instagram than they do on Facebook. And it’s a global phenomenon, not just an American one.