What Instagram Research Says About “Toxicity” 2:32
(CNN) – Instagram says it is looking for new ways to discourage users from focusing on their physical appearance after The Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook researchers have repeatedly found the photo-sharing platform toxic to teenage girls.
The newspaper reported Tuesday that researchers at Facebook, the company that bought Instagram in 2012, have been conducting studies for the past three years on how the app affects its millions of young users.
Research shows that the platform can harm mental health and body image, especially among adolescent girls. Facebook executives have often downplayed mental health issues in public.
“We made body image problems worse for one in three teenagers,” read a slide from an internal Facebook presentation obtained by The Wall Street Journal, which summarized research on adolescent girls experiencing these problems.
Learn about Instagram’s new measures against abuse 0:38
Among teens who reported having suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of Americans attributed the desire to commit suicide to Instagram, a presentation showed, according to The Journal.
Karina Newton, Instagram’s head of public policy, wrote in a statement posted Tuesday referring to the newspaper article that while Instagram can be a place where people have “negative experiences,” the app also gives people a voice. marginalized and helps friends and family stay connected.
Instagram tries not to harm the self-esteem of its users 1:25
Newton said Facebook’s internal research demonstrated the company’s commitment to “understanding the complex and difficult issues young people can grapple with, and that it informs all the work we do to help those experiencing these issues.”
The research has been reviewed by senior Facebook executives, according to The Journal, and was cited in a 2020 presentation given to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Instagram is committed to a change in users, but criticism against the platform continues
Newton said on his blog Tuesday that Instagram is “increasingly focused on addressing negative social comparison and negative body image.” One of the ideas is to encourage users to look at different topics when they repeatedly view content of that type.
“We are cautiously optimistic that these stimuli will help steer people towards content that inspires and uplifts them, and to a greater extent will change the part of Instagram culture that focuses on the appearance of people,” he said.
This might not be enough to appease critics. Facebook reaffirmed in July that it was pursuing its plans to create an Instagram for children under 13, despite significant opposition from parents and lawmakers in Washington.
Development of Instagram for teenagers advances 0:31
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said Tuesday that The Journal report shows that Facebook has known for years the “detrimental effect of Instagram on young people,” and that warnings from its own employees were “sidelined in favor of growth “.
“I am appalled and alarmed that Facebook is targeting teens with dangerous products while hiding the science of their toxic impact,” Blumenthal said on Twitter. “Through hearings and legislation, my Commerce subcommittee will act to protect children and support parents.”
How to get help for someone who might commit suicide
Call 1-800-273-8255 in the United States to reach the National Suicide Prevention Line. Provides free and confidential assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for people in suicidal or distressed crisis. You can learn more about their services here, including their guide on what to do if suicidal signs are identified on social media. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone about how you can help someone in crisis. Call 1-866-488-7386 for TrevorLifeline, a suicide prevention counseling service for the LGBTQ community.
For assistance outside of the US, the International Association for Suicide Prevention provides a global directory of international resources and hotlines. You can also turn to Befrienders Worldwide.