Research Says that Instagram Leads Teen Girls to Feel Bad about Their Bodies and that Facebook Knows It

Teens who struggle with mental health say Instagram makes it worse
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Research recently released by Instagram supports claims that the social media site contributes to poor body image among teenaged girls and boys. The results of the studies, commissioned by and released this week by Instagram itself (well, parent company Facebook) suggest, rather than, as they claim, refute the claims made recently that Instagram leads an appreciable percentage of teen girls (in particular) to feel badly about their bodies and themselves.

The coverage of this primarily started earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal reported on the findings and related data, saying that Instagram use “can push teens down a toxic rabbithole of content,” that “Instagram is hurting teens, but they can’t log off,” and, in a more in-depth related piece, that “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show

In response Facebook released to the public two decks of slides which Facebook had shared with Congress, documenting their internal research, and attempting to spin it as refuting the claims, even though it’s fairly clear to anyone who cares to look at the decks that it is absolutely the case, as even Facebook admits, that “Teens who struggle with mental health say Instagram makes it worse”.

Slide from Instagram parent Facebook’s Own Internal Research
Teens who struggle with mental health say Instagram makes it worse

In their side note to the above slide Facebook says that the above caption really should read “Teens who have lower life satisfaction more likely to say Instagram makes their mental health or the way they feel about themselves worse than teens who are satisfied with their lives.”

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Yeah, that makes it much better.

And to this damning slide (again, from Instagram’s (Facebook’s) own internal research, with an incredibly misleading title…

teen image and body image issues starting on Instagram

 

…Facebook says “For people who answered that they had experienced one of these issues, they were also asked “did any of them start on Instagram.” However, the calculation in this slide should not be used as estimates of average experience among teen users. The graph excludes any respondents who had experienced issues but said none of them started on Instagram, which alone inflates the estimates by approximately 2x. It excludes any respondents who reported not having any issues within the past 30 days, further inflating the estimates. For example, only about 1% (or 16 respondents) of the entire group of teens who took the survey — not 6% in the US and 13% in the UK as shown in this slide — said they had suicidal thoughts that they felt started on Instagram. Of course, even one person who feels this started on Instagram is one too many. That is why we have invested so heavily in support, resources and interventions for people using our services. This research framework leaves very few responses to calculate estimates, and the data from this survey is too sparse to provide population estimates.”

If you read Facebook’s statement on the research, their basic argument seems to be that if more teens who responded say that Instagram doesn’t make them feel bad or makes them feel good, or has no impact, then it’s completely ok that 31% of teens say that Instagram makes problematic use of Instagram worse, or that nearly 1 in 5 teens (18.9%) say that it makes body image worse.

You can see the two slide decks here and here. And in addition to the Wall Street Journal‘s articles linked above, you can read The Verge‘s excellent coverage of this here.

No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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