Facebook responded to the Wall Street Journal and it hopes to dispel what it calls some misconceptions derived from its own internal research about the impact Instagram has on the mental health of certain user cohorts.
First, Facebook says that its research found, on 11 out of 12 well-being issues surveyed, teenage girls who identified as struggling with them found Instagram made things better, not worse, in those specific areas.
Second, the research shows that teens report both positive and negative experiences on the platform which could probably be said of anything in life.
And, last, Facebook says that its internal research, far from attempting to achieve a range of nefarious goals, is actually about improving the user experience and their findings inform these platform changes.
Some of the changes listed by Facebook that came as a result of its research include those around body-image issues, suicide, graphic content, and bullying, among others.
Body-image issues, in particular, drew much of the WSJ’s attention and, in that area, Facebook admits that the results are a mixed bag.
From the blog post:
“On 11 of the 12 issues in the slide referenced by the Journal, such as eating issues, loneliness, anxiety and sadness, teenage girls who said they experienced these challenges were more likely to say that Instagram made these issues better vs. worse. The one exception was body image. While the headline in the internal slide does not explicitly state it, the research shows one in three of those teenage girls who told us they were experiencing body image issues reported that using Instagram made them feel worse — not one in three of all teenage girls.”
As Facebook explains, this is important from a marketing standpoint as 33% of the surveyed audience is, indeed, a large number but that’s not what their research discovered.
“This is an important difference that is not explicit in the Journal’s reporting. And, among those same girls who said they were struggling with body image issues, 22% said that using Instagram made them feel better about their body image issues and 45.5% said that Instagram didn’t make it either better or worse (no impact).”
Of course, as we’ve reported multiple times here, social media doesn’t seem to incentivize some of the best behavior out there and that trend alone is worrying and across age groups. For example, extreme stunts and content tend to get the kinds of reactions from audiences and spur the algorithm in ways that intentionally game the system thus leading to the creation of more “toxic” content.
Do you think Facebook’s release of internal research about Instagram’s impact on its younger user cohort is a smart move towards getting rid of the controversy or will it just muddy the waters further? Let us know your thoughts on the impact of social media on mental health in the comments below.
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