A report released Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal found that according to internal documents, Facebook knows that Instagram is toxic for teens, especially young girls.
Top executives have reviewed the documents, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, that showed teens are having a negative experience on the app.
The company had a number of slides that revealed what they had learned about teens and their behavior on the app, according to The Wall Street Journal report.
- 32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the company’s researchers said in a slide presentation. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”
- Facebook also reportedly found that 14% of boys in the U.S. said Instagram made them feel worse about themselves.
- “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide, according to the WSJ. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”
- Per WSJ, another slide said, “We make body image issues worse for 1 in 3 teen girls.”
Facebook has struggled to manage the problem while trying to keep users engaged on its app. According to the report, researchers warned that Instagram’s Explore page can push users into content that can be toxic.
One internal Facebook presentation said that among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the issue to Instagram.
Instagram policy rep responds
In a blog post on the site, Instagram’s head of public policy, Karina Newton, acknowledged the WSJ’s report by saying “the question on many people’s minds is if social media is good or bad for people. The research on this is mixed; it can be both…we also know it can be a place where people have negative experiences, as the Journal called out today.”
Facebook is also in the works of building a version of Instagram for kids under the age of 13. Young users are a key to Instagram’s success. More than 40% of Instagram’s users are 22 years old and younger.
“We’re increasingly focused on addressing negative social comparison and negative body image. One idea we think has promise is finding opportunities to jump in if we see people dwelling on certain types of content,” said Newton.
“From our research, we’re starting to understand the types of content some people feel may contribute to negative social comparison, and we’re exploring ways to prompt them to look at different topics if they’re repeatedly looking at this type of content. 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.”