The Insidious Truth behind Instagram

A recent Wall Street Journal report revealed that Facebook has been aware of the negative mental health effects that Instagram has on teenagers for quite some time.

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photo courtesy of The Verge

False beauty standards posted and shared on social media platforms such as Instagram negatively impact teenagers every day, and new reports show that company executives have long been aware of the issue.

Waverly Younts, Senior Staff Writer

For the past three years, Facebook has reportedly been conducting studies that investigated whether or not their acquired app, Instagram, affects the mental health and overall well-being of young users on the social media platform. This unfortunate study was confirmed to be true in a Wall Street Journal report published on Tuesday, September 14. 

The news broke that even though the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, was notified of the ongoing problem in a presentation last year, he, along with his multi-billion dollar company, had yet to share their findings until this month. 

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the investigators of this matter reported. The corporation’s research revealed that it is more harmful to teenage girls, as fourteen percent of boys in the U.S. feel worse about themselves because of Instagram. Although these statistics may seem small as they are less than fifty percent, Instagram has over an astonishing one billion users

I’m sure this announcement does not come as a surprise to a lot of teenagers. As sad as it is to admit, I’m sure I’m not alone in catching myself falling for the unrealistic images that are often posted on the social media platform. Girls with perfectly applied makeup, taut stomachs, and beautifully styled hair fill my feed and explore page. These pictures also flood the feeds of other Gen Z girls and consequently cause many to develop serious mental health and identity issues

Our generation is trained to habitually check our social media platforms. From the very beginning of our day, we are bombarded with this unattainable reality showcased by celebrities, models, and influencers, sending a troubling message to impressionable young girls. How are we expected to know our true selves when we are constantly shown this fake reality?

While the study conducted by Facebook is hardly surprising, it is nevertheless appalling how long it took for the company to publicize this information.”

While the study conducted by Facebook is hardly surprising, it is nevertheless appalling how long it took for the company to publicize this information. If Zuckerberg knew of this issue last year, why did he choose not to share it with the public? And why has the CEO not commented on the issue since the report came out?

Instagram has recently allowed for the optional removal of the counting of “likes” per post. This move is intended to help users avoid thinking less of themselves if they do not receive a desired amount of approval from their followers. While this is a step in the right direction, Instagram still has a long journey ahead if they truly want to eliminate the harmful effects the app has on the mental health of its downloaders. 

It’s worth noting that Instagram had plans to launch a kids’ version of their app, but on Monday, September 27, the company announced that it was suspending the project to apparently focus on concerns about screen time, privacy, and mental health. However, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the suspension was related to the internal study results released earlier this month. 

The fact of the matter is that Instagram culture is engineered to mainly capture only the perfect moments in one’s life. It took me a long time to realize this, and I can only imagine how long it would take for younger generations to come to this conclusion if they download Instagram at an even younger age than I did.

At the very least, Mark Zuckerberg owes the public, and specifically teenagers, an apology. As the CEO of Facebook and therefore an overseer of Instagram, Zuckerberg must figure out a way to protect the mental health of teens — even if it comes at the expense of profit margins. The fact that he was made aware of this information a year ago and chose not to speak on it is horrifying. He allowed the issue to continue for far too long and must take the actions necessary to prevent further damage.