Facebook: Primum Non Nocere

Georgia Wells, Jeff Horowitz, Deepa Seetharaman writing for WSJ:

For the past three years, Facebook has been conducting studies into how its photo-sharing app affects its millions of young users. Repeatedly, the company’s researchers found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls.

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues.

“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

These are internal admissions from the company. Yet it persists with intentional harm to its users. I did grow up in the era without social media, and I don’t feel the need to broadcast my existence. I understand it is a cultural issue around being visible on social media but it harms users by creating dissonance from reality. These are grave charges against Facebook and it should be made accountable.

WSJ carried out a fascinating series of reports on Facebook (and Instagram). All the products are under increased scrutiny of lawmakers across the world.

The tendency to share only the best moments, a pressure to look perfect and an addictive product can send teens spiraling toward eating disorders, an unhealthy sense of their own bodies and depression, March 2020 internal research states. It warns that the Explore page, which serves users photos and videos curated by an algorithm, can send users deep into content that can be harmful.

I have increasingly focused on the major social media networks because healthcare uses them too. I understand it might be conducive for businesses to gain more visibility and focus, but it must be measured by the appropriate use.

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