“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one internal presentation slide obtained by The Journal, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues. Among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram, one presentation showed, according to The Journal.
Newton said that Facebook’s internal research demonstrated the company’s commitment to “understanding complex and difficult issues young people may struggle with, and informs all the work we do to help those experiencing these issues.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook researchers concluded that some problems with teen mental health were specific to Instagram, and not social media more broadly, especially when it comes to “social comparison.” That’s when users focus on how their wealth, appearance or success stacks up against other people on the platform.
The research has been reviewed by top Facebook executives, according to The Journal, and was cited in a 2020 presentation given to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Newton said in her blog post on Tuesday that Instagram is “increasingly focused on addressing negative social comparison and negative body image.” One idea is to prompt users to look at different topics when they repeatedly view content of that kind.
“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,” she said.
“I’m appalled and alarmed by Facebook’s targeting of teens with dangerous products while hiding the science of its toxic impact,” he said on Twitter. “Through hearings and legislation my Commerce subcommittee will act to protect children and support parents.”
If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, here are ways to help: