Instagram: a danger to mental health

Instagram: un peligro para la salud mental

I will not deny it, I like Instagram. I don’t usually access it on a daily basis, but I do try to remember to do it at least two or three times a week. I keep accounts of the most varied: friends, acquaintances, celebrities, some media … in short, a selection of the most varied, in which I find both spectacular landscapes and friendly faces. Sometimes I usually think that it is surely the least toxic social network of the massive ones, and that perhaps I should spend more time to the detriment of the others.

However, this is not to say that Instagram seems like an ideal place to me. Although somewhat taken to the extreme, but I think Nosedive. the first episode of the third season of Black Mirror, It captures very well everything that is behind many of the publications that we can see on Instagram. And yes, it is understandable that we all try to give our best image, but there is a difference between choosing to take photos of one profile or another, and trying to build a false perfection to project to the rest of the world.

I’ve already heard a few times that “No one is as happy as they seem on Instagram or as angry as they appear on Twitter.” The problem, however, is that these poses project a tremendously unreal image, which can distort the perception that some people have of it. After a couple of hours looking at Instagram images, everything around you may seem ugly and gray. And that also applies, of course, to what you see reflected in the mirror.

Although there are cases for everything, we tend to interpret that adults are aware of this, that we know how to differentiate reality from what social networks show us. I do not totally agree, I have met many people my age (forty-something) and even older who are tremendously influenced by social networks like Instagram. But hey, this is not an amendment to the whole, so I will focus on the user group this news is about, adolescents.

We already talked, a few months ago, about Facebook’s plans to create an Instagram for children, an idea so aberrant that it quickly received a not especially positive social response. And if it already was simply with the information we had a few months ago, after read this article from The Wall Street Journal, I changed the definition from aberrant to disgusting. With all the letters, and is that Facebook knows Instagram is bad for teens’ mental health.

In an internal Facebook document that the newspaper has had access to, we can read phrases like these: «Thirty-two percent of teenage girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse” and “Comparisons on Instagram can change the way young women see and describe themselves«. Nothing new, in addition, because apparently the results are consistent over the years.

And what is the origin of this study? Maybe some powerful lobby that acts against social networks? Any research group that has a mania for Facebook? Well no, the truth is thatIt is an internal study, carried out by the social network itself. A study that has been in progress for a long time: «We make body image problems worse for one in three teenagers«, Affirmed an internal presentation on Instagram in 2019

It can be worst? Yes, it can be, as another presentation, also internal, claimed that a small percentage of teenage Instagram users, British and American, claimed they started having suicidal thoughts due to the service. More specifically, due to the accumulation of content on the social network designed to generate supernormal stimuli. The reality, including oneself, compared to what is seen on Instagram, is disappointing. Self, compared to what you see on Instagram, is disappointing.

I know that young people today are often referred to as the crystal generation, I am sorry but I cannot agree with that approach. And we forget that they are subjected to a level of exposure that we, at their age, could not even have imagined. They live in a social context in which networks are a basic element of communication, and at the same time a showcase in which they must always show their best version, whether on Instagram, TikTok or Facebook. Well, not on Facebook, that is precisely why Facebook bought Instagram, to reach an audience that eludes it.

Adolescence is a time of fear, change and insecurities. If in our times going to class with a new haircut, with a change in dress style or whatever it was already made us a bit nervous, what would happen if instead of seeing the 20 or 3rd people with whom we shared the classroom Are we talking about an audience of hundreds, thousands or maybe even more? Geez, I think even as adults, discover overnight that thousands or tens of thousands of people follow us would raise us a few insecurities. That is Instagram.

Facebook responds to the study on the incidence of Instagram on the mental health of adolescents arguing that its services are not inherently good or bad for people. And this point is indisputable, of course. The problem is that, even being aware of this problem for years, they have raised an Instagram for children. And is that now they can no longer claim ignorance about the effects it could have. And that, and I clarify that this is a very personal opinion, in which I only involve myself, it seems to me to be particularly miserable.

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