Research finds Instagram can have negative affect on body image and mental health
Instagram is a popular photo and video-sharing platform that allows users to share experiences, travels, passions and hobbies with followers and friends from around the world. It is also toxic, according to researchers.
According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, Facebook researchers found the platform can have a negative impact on mental health and body image, most notably in teenage girls.
Facebook researchers looking into how Instagram affects young users found that, among teenage users who experience suicidal thoughts, 6% of American girls linked those thoughts back to the platform, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Instagram released a statement on Tuesday responding to the report, insisting that while it understands users can have negative interactions with the platform, it also does a public good.
“At Instagram, we look at the benefits and the risks of what we do,” said Karina Newton, Instagram’s head of public policy. “We’re proud that our app can give voice to those who have been marginalized, that it can help friends and families stay connected from all corners of the world, that it can prompt societal change; but we also know it can be a place where people have negative experiences.”
Researchers from Facebook, which acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, found that some of the teen mental health issues could be linked directly to Instagram, such as the social comparison anxiety that comes from focusing on and comparing another person’s wealth, lifestyle, or appearance, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The research findings were well-known by top level Facebook executives, such as CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who, according to the Wall Street Journal, was told about the results during a presentation in 2020.
Newton said Instagram is actively trying to find ways to diminish the platform’s effects on creating negative social comparison and body image standards, including by “nudging,” users to look at content that won’t be as harmful to their psyche.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that these nudges will help point people towards 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,” Newton said.
For help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800)273-8255 or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.