Is Instagram toxic to teens?

CLEVELAND (WJW) – Is Instagram toxic to teens? Internal research conducted by Facebook and recently published online has prompted psychologists and politicians to ask this question.

According to research, one in five teens said Instagram made them feel worse about themselves across three main categories: social comparison, social pressure, and negative interactions with others.

Research has also found that Instagram “proliferates in new and different ways” for teens to compare themselves, and when combined with constant access, it increases “anxiety and depression” leading to increased suicidal thoughts in those who already suffer from mental health problems.

“We don’t measure up when we compare ourselves and there is this need to be perfect,” said clinical psychologist Dr. Lori Stevic-Rust, “Like my life is really pretty shitty compared to others. things that others do and achieve. ”

According to research, this has a particular impact on younger users, leading to body image issues and even eating disorders.

“There is a lot of science around the neuropathology of what happens when we react to advertisements or images or stimuli on social media,” Dr. Stevic-Rust said, “And kids don’t. not yet a fully formed brain, so their ability because using good insight and judgment is our responsibility (parents / adults).

Some Instagram users are also not surprised by the search results.

Kari Seymour, 25, started using social media sites as a teenager.

“I’ve definitely experienced a few curveballs over the years,” Kari said. “There is sadness for these statistics, which I have experienced firsthand.”

She remembers feeling unsettled when strangers commented on her posts and is now grateful for finding out about security measures with her mother.

However, even security measures couldn’t stop some of the strong emotions that would crop up when scrolling Instagram, like seeing people at parties you weren’t invited to attend.

“Friends and I were talking about ‘what do you think they’re doing? “Or sort of analyze it,” Kari said. “Then you think, ‘I spend my free time thinking about what someone else is doing.’ “

Now, as a young teacher in central Ohio, she sees the same things happening with her students and tries to convey to them some of the lessons she has learned.

“Some students don’t care until they get a lot of likes,” Kari said. “I think it’s important to discuss it in an educational rather than controlling way, and to understand that it’s not real life. You take a photo and make sure it all looks good, and then you come back to what it (life) really is.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle, including Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D), have started to look at the research and have called for an investigation into Instagram’s impact on young people.

A Facebook spokesperson said it would cooperate fully with all investigations.

On October 5, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, posted a response on the social media site, saying in part, “A lot of claims just don’t make sense. If we wanted to ignore research, why would we create a cutting edge research agenda to understand these important questions in the first place? “

Zuckerberg went on to say that they are “committed to doing the best job possible” and that “When it comes to the health or well-being of young people, every negative experience counts. “

Zuckerberg also discussed the positive aspects of social media connecting people with loved ones and creating positive communities, especially during the pandemic. He said Facebook had introduced “new resources to support those struggling” with different mental health issues.

Dr Stevic-Rust, who is also a mother, agrees that social media can be a great way for people to connect because humans are social creatures, but she says adults need to help protect young users.

She says parents need to be the “counterweight” to what children see on Instagram and the voice of reason, helping them deal with any negative feelings that arise when exposed to advertisements, certain images and especially to bullying.

She recommends that people balance their time on social media with going out, making friends, and having real experiences in real life.

“I think for kids it’s really important that we continue to help them find the right kind of connections in the world of social media. This is where we need to do research, because they won’t find this spontaneously, ”said Dr Stevic-Rust.

Kari agrees and several years ago she started posting on Instagram every day, calling it her 365.

It’s a private account where she shares positive messages with friends even on the worst days to help spread optimism. She never focuses on followers, but encourages people to follow their own happiness.

“I’ve been careful who I let into this community because I want them to be people I know and who I can be honest with and who will understand,” Seymour said. “I don’t care how many likes I get. I’m going to post this because it makes me happy.

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