Instagram has measured and qualified just how bad it can be for teens

    Posted on Sep 15, 2021, 10:16 AMUpdated Sep 15, 2021, 10:54 AM

    “We worsen the relationship to his body of one in three teenagers. “The observation emanates from Instagram itself at the end of an internal investigation revealed by the” Wall Street Journal “. Social networks, like fashion magazines, contribute to the maintenance of beauty stereotypes and this is nothing new. But according to this study, some problems are specific to Instagram.

    What is new is that the company would be aware of the shortcomings of its platform. “One in five teenagers say Instagram makes them feel worse, British teenage girls are the most negative,” is the headline of a “internal presentation page” published by the “WSJ”. In this country, 23% of teenage girls feel “rather bad” because of Instagram, 2% would feel “very bad”. The proportion is 18% (and 3%) among American teens.

    The negative influence of Instagram does not spare boys: 13% of young Britons would feel “rather bad”, as well as 12% of American teens. So, we can see the glass half full… The study also reveals that 12% of American teenagers feel “much better” thanks to Instagram and 29% feel “rather better”. But on Instagram, those who are doing badly are in the millions.

    Comply with social stereotypes

    What’s wrong ? In another “slide”, Instagram explains that “teens are actually aware that it can be bad for their mental health, yet they are forced to spend time on the app for fear of missing a cultural or social trend” .

    The social network even documents the origins of this suffering: “Pressure to conform to social stereotypes, to compare oneself to the wealth and physical beauty of influencers, need for validation with views and likes, hypersexualization of girls…” Already in 2017, a study by the Royal Society for Public Health qualified Instagram as “the worst social network for the mental health of young people”.

    “We are working more and more on comparisons [de son corps avec celui des autres, NDLR] and the negative image of the body, ”defended himself on Instagram on Tuesday in a press release. The platform says it is thinking about ways to react “when we see that people dwell on certain types of images”.

    “The article focuses on findings from limited studies and presents them in a bad light,” responded Karina Newton, Instagram’s director of public policy. But this research shows “our commitment to understanding these complex topics.”

    Still unclear safeguards

    Among the avenues for improvement, Facebook researchers have suggested that Instagram offers “fun” filters rather than filters focused on beautification. In 2019, the platform backtracked and removed “cosmetic surgery effect” filters that magnify the lips and smooth the skin. In the other direction, Boston University alerted in 2018 to what it called the “Snapchat Dysmorphia”, where when teens are operated to look like filters.

    In March, Facebook researchers also reportedly proposed reducing exposure to fashion and beauty content, focusing instead on that of close friends. An idea quickly swept aside by an employee in an internal discussion. He sets the tone: “Isn’t that what Instagram is? Offer a glimpse into the very photogenic life of the top 0.1%? “. A former company executive abound: “People use Instagram because it’s a competition. This is the fun part. “

    Internal documents claim that Instagram has approached associations to promote what it calls “emotional resilience”, including through videos. Karina Newton, she hopes that a system of incentives to watch content that “inspires and exalts” young users could help “to change this part of the culture of Instagram which focuses on appearances.”

    TikTok announces measures for teens

    While waiting for a more concrete response from the platform, its main competitor, TikTok, has taken the lead. The social network popular with the youngest announces a series of measures. To help teens struggling with mental health issues, it will distribute wellness and nutrition guides. For those with suicidal thoughts, a helpline will be open.

    In July, Pinterest went so far as to ban ads promoting weight loss. In 2019, Instagram had also reduced advertising on diets and cosmetic surgery. This year he also tried to reduce the power of “likes”; another potential driver of discomfort.

    If Instagram is looking at the limits of its influence on the youngest, it is also because it is preparing a version for the under 13s of its social network. In April, children’s rights activists in a letter urged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon the project.

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