Instagram Considered Promoting Funny Memes, Nature Photos To Combat Body Image Problems - Social Media Explorer
Instagram Considered Promoting Funny Memes, Nature Photos To Combat Body Image Problems
Instagram Considered Promoting Funny Memes, Nature Photos To Combat Body Image Problems

After coming to realize that Instagram’s emphasis on ideal body images was hurting some users’ self-image and mental health, a group of researchers at the company hit on the idea of distracting users with nature images and humorous memes, among other measures. They reasoned that lighter content might help to offset the damage.

Researchers also suggested that Instagram might emphasize posts that address positive body issues, such as #loveyourself. They could also include images of models who are average-sized and plus-sized. Their work concluded that several core elements of Instagram were making the situation worse, and if the company wanted to take drastic action, it could consider limiting Likes or comments on a post—or even turn off its collection of photo filters, perhaps the app’s most famous feature. It’s unclear whether Instagram enacted any of these measures, though it obviously did not take the more dramatic ones, such as scrapping the filters.

The Instagram team was not clear on the best way to proceed, but it did come to a conclusion about the problem. “33% of Instagram users and 11% of Facebook users think the platform makes their own body image issues worse,” the report reads. “Substantial evidence suggests that experiences on Instagram or Facebook make body dissatisfaction worse, particularly viewing attractive images of others, viewing filtered images, posting selfies, and viewing content with certain hashtags.”

This 2020 report is new and was compiled from documents Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistle-blower, provided to the Securities and Exchange Commission. They were also provided to Congress in redacted format by her legal team. A consortium of news organizations obtained the redacted versions for Congress. SME

Haugen’s documents, which have become known as the Facebook Papers, present an enormously detailed picture of Facebook and its struggles to balance its size and growth with a constellation of problems on its apps. One of the issues made plainly evident by those documents is how Instagram harms the mental health of its users, who see an ecosystem of curated and highly edited images and then despair when their own lives, bodies and surroundings don’t resemble these photos. It is particularly worrisome given Instagram’s popularity with teens, a cohort already at risk of developing body image issues. According to Statista data, 7.5% of its users are younger than 17, and 40% are younger than 24. Politicians have taken advantage of this issue to try to find something that voters can understand that could lead to new regulation on social media. A Senate subcommittee has already heard testimony from Facebook’s Head of Safety, Antigone Davis, and Haugen, the whistle-blower. It hosted executives from TikTok and YouTube, three other apps that teens love, Tuesday to expand its investigation.

The 2020 report on body image is in line with early reporting. The Wall Street Journal, which published the first stories based on Haugen’s documents. The Journal published additional internal reports that showed that 32% of teenage girls felt worse about themselves because Instagram. In total, 20% of teens reported to Instagram that the app made them feel worse about their bodies. Facebook has dismissed nearly all of the reporting to emerge from Haugen’s leaks as overly sensational and a misunderstanding of Facebook’s efforts. Speaking to Wall Street analysts on the company’s earnings call last night, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “My view on what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to create a false picture about our company.”

Other startling statistics are included in the 2020 report on body-image. It cited an older study that showed 33% of respondents believed Instagram made them look worse. 66% of teen girls who used Instagram reported having body images. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they were bullied on Instagram or faced discrimination via the app. Almost 30% reported that Instagram made it more difficult to end a relationship in person, possibly because it allowed them to monitor the other person. 

While offering some possible solutions to the problem, the report also took the opportunity to highlight several ideas that researchers felt wouldn’t alleviate the issues. For example, researchers concluded that promoting positive captions wasn’t especially constructive: Doing so made some average-size users feel better but had little impact on overweight or thin users. They also concluded that attaching warning labels to harmful body-image content wasn’t helpful. This raises questions regarding the effectiveness of labels that are applied to content on Facebook apps. Facebook has used this practice more frequently over the last two years. It has placed labels on potentially dangerous content regarding the 2020 election, pandemics and coronavirus vaccinations, often directing users to fact-checked information.

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About the Author

Adam is an owner at Nanohydr8. He really loves comedy and satire, and the written word in general.

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