CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Facebook has internal data showing Instagram is having a negative impact on teenage users, specifically girls, which first surfaced in a new report in The Wall Street Journal.
“In one study of teens in the U.S. and U.K., Facebook found that more than 40% of Instagram users who reported feeling ‘unattractive’ said the feeling began on the app,” the article reads. “About a quarter of the teens who reported feeling ‘not good enough’ said the feeling started on Instagram. Many also said the app undermined their confidence in the strength of their friendships.”
When NewsNation asked for comment, a Facebook spokesperson pointed to a response to the article on Instagram’s website where they defended their collection of the data and outlined their plans based on it.
“While the story focuses on a limited set of findings and casts them in a negative light, we stand by this research,” the post said. “It demonstrates our commitment to understanding complex and difficult issues young people may struggle with, and informs all the work we do to help those experiencing these issues.”
Still, experts say it’s hard to argue the research lines up with anecdotal evidence.
“I come away feeling pretty crummy (after using Instagram),” tech journalist Shibani Joshi said on “The Donlon Report” Tuesday. “When I see how perfect people’s lives are. And I think about applying this on to young, impressionable young girls.”
Jim Anderson is the CEO of SocialFlow, a website that helps organizations grow their social media presence. He has a daughter, 17, who is on the platform.
“The fact that we’ve got these algorithms, we’ve got these devices within a foot of us, most of us for 24 hours a day, really just distorts things,” Anderson said. “I think it really becomes a problem that teenagers have a hard time controlling, parents have a hard time controlling.”
Instagram’s statement said the findings in the Journal are in line with other studies that have shown social media is appreciated by some but can affect others negatively.
“Social media isn’t inherently good or bad for people,” the post said. “Many find it helpful one day, and problematic the next.”
The company is working on ways to keep people from dwelling on content that may be detrimental to their mental health. The response said they were developing ways to prompt people to stop looking at those types of pictures, but did not say when it would be rolled out or exactly how it would work.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that these nudges will help point people toward content that inspires and uplifts them, and to a larger extent, will shift the part of Instagram’s culture that focuses on how people look,” it said.
Until then, children and adults alike will need to take the good with the bad.
“If you think about the upsides, there is this ability to connect to see into one another’s lives that during very difficult times, like the pandemic, make us realize we are thankful for technology for this ability to have visibility and connection to one another,” Joshi said on “The Donlon Report.” “But again, this reality distortion and the conversations about it are the next steps in really realizing the full potential of social media.”