Years of internal research at Facebook has concluded that Instagram is toxic to the mental well-being of teenagers, especially girls, but the social-media giant has done next to nothing to remedy the situation, The Wall Street Journal reports. “Aspects of Instagram exacerbate each other to create a perfect storm” for young users, Facebook’s internal research from March 2020 reads, noting that “social comparison is worse on Instagram.” The researchers also made clear that the pressure on teen girls to have the “perfect image” on the platform has proven detrimental to their mental health. “We make body-image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” one presentation from 2019 warned, according to the Journal.
While company executives were briefed on all these findings, Facebook’s top leadership has consistently minimized the harmful aspects of Instagram in public. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, confronted directly over the platform’s effects on children at a congressional hearing last spring, played coy when asked if any internal studies had been conducted on the matter, saying only, “I believe the answer is yes.” The company has continued to dodge further inquiries seeking more detailed information on the studies, according to the Journal. “Facebook’s answers were so evasive—failing to even respond to all our questions—that they really raise questions about what Facebook might be hiding,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was quoted saying. A spokeswoman told the Journal the company would be willing to collaborate with lawmakers on the matter and would consider working with “external researchers” to explore the issue further.