Facebook knew Instagram was toxic and likely to contribute to or escalate mental health issues among teen users, particularly teen girls, according to internal research conducted by Facebook, Inc. over the past three years. About 22 million teens in the U.S. use Instagram on a regular basis, many of whom may be suffering adverse psychological effects due to the competitive nature of the photo-sharing app, which encourages negative social comparison and puts unhealthy pressure on users to look a certain way and live a perfect, Instagram-worthy life. Based on Facebook’s own research, Instagram is harmful to a large percentage of its users and can make anxiety, depression, body image issues, and other mental health issues worse. If you or someone you love has suffered anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or other adverse psychological effects allegedly caused by Instagram, contact Consumer Safety Watch today to find out if you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against Facebook.
Nearly half of the users logging onto Instagram are 22 years old and younger, a fact that led Facebook to study the impact the photo-sharing app may have on youth mental health. Over the past three years, researchers from within Facebook collected data related to Instagram’s affect on its millions of teen users, which revealed a troubling pattern of depression, anxiety, body image issues, and suicidal thoughts. The research was posted to Facebook’s internal message board in a series of slide presentations reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The presentations, titled “Teen Mental Health Deep Dive,” expose some serious problems related to the negative impact social media platforms can have on the mental health and self-esteem of young, impressionable users, particularly teen girls, many of whom say the app made them see themselves differently. “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” says one slide from 2019. “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” says another.
The company documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal also show that Facebook execs knew that some of the problems uncovered by researchers were specific to Instagram, an app centered around sharing perfect moments and looking or acting a certain way. Instagram’s heavy focus on appearance and lifestyle invites unhealthy social comparison among teens, which involves the tendency of users to measure their own worth by comparing themselves to others. “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” reads one slide presentation from March 2020 posted to the internal message board. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”
Some Instagram users also report experiencing suicidal thoughts, which they attributed to the time they spent on Instagram, an “addictive” product that pressures users to compete and compare themselves to friends and strangers alike. According to one presentation slide, among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 6% of American users and 13% of British users blamed Instagram for those thoughts. Because of the addictive nature of the app, however, even teens who struggle with body image issues or other harmful psychological effects stemming from their Instagram use say they lack the self-control to step away from the app. “Teens told us that they don’t like the amount of time they spend on the app but feel like they have to be present,” the Facebook researchers note. “They often feel ‘addicted’ and know that what they’re seeing is bad for their mental health but feel unable to stop themselves.”
Based on the data uncovered in its “Teen Mental Health Deep Dive,” Facebook has known for some time that Instagram could have harmful effects on youth mental health. However, the company has made little effort to address these serious issues and Facebook execs have consistently downplayed them in public. If you know someone who has suffered negative mental health effects allegedly due to Instagram use, do not hesitate to speak to an attorney about your legal options. You may have grounds to file a lawsuit against Instagram, in order to seek financial compensation for the harm you and your loved ones have suffered.