Facebook was launched in 2004, Twitter, in 2006, and Instagram, in 2010. All of these apps were created for a sole purpose. To bring people together and to share your experiences, views, and opinions with the rest of the world. Platforms like these made the world a global village, with messages being delivered faster and faster, pictures and videos becoming easier to share, and connectivity becoming instant and easy. The world progressing and people learning more about the other side of this global village was the prospect of these apps. If you think about it, the sentiment was sweet and wholesome. However, there is a downside to everything.
Where It Went Wrong?
While it felt great to get in touch with our old school friends again, watching a video of a stranger’s cute dog and keeping up the Kardashians, something managed to slip through the cracks, completely unseen. This ‘something’ was that one video you watched, while scrolling, of a perfect body. This ‘something’ was the time you opened the profile of a friend and saw how carefree, happy, and perfect of a life they were living. It was that one time you saw ‘something’ and wished you were also like that. You wished for that perfect body, that happy life, that right person, or that sweet success.
You wished and wished, so you clicked on more and more of these posts, scrolling for hours and hours on end. Each time it passed your eyes, you compared yourself with it. Until this wishful thinking became more. You wondered what you could do to get that ‘something’. This sat in the back of your head, keeping you up at night, making you self-conscious of your body, giving you anxiety, body issues, eating disorders, insomnia, depression, health issues, mental issues, and everything that could possibly go wrong with the human brain.
As if this wasn’t enough already, a spoonful of a virus sprinkled into our lives that led to a pandemic and confined us to our homes. It felt as if we had no choice but to be bounded to Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or Facebook.
It felt like being trapped in a very, VERY toxic friend group. One made you feel inadequate, one made you feel dumb, another made you feel ugly and another one made you feel like a failure. No matter how many times you dumped them, you seemed to turn back to them again and again.
Wall Street Journal Investigates Facebook
WSJ published an investigative report into Facebook and revealed what they claim are internal documents.
One slide shared in the journal states:
The perfect image, feeling attractive, and having enough money are most likely to have started on Instagram
Another slide states:
Teens who struggle with mental health say Instagram makes it worse
Instagram has 600 million active monthly users and 59% of its users are between the ages of 18 and 29. Considering this and the fact that Facebook is already aware of the issues its platform perpetuates onto teenagers, you should also know that minimal action has been taken to solve this problem.
Mark Zuckerburg, the beloved founder of Facebook, stated at a Congressional meeting in March 2021:
The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits.
Users on Hacker News discuss this statement saying that it is technically true but these benefits encompass very few people and there is little evidence to support it. Therefore, the statement seems to be misleading and the epitome of useless information when looked at closely.
Why Is This a Problem?
An article from The Guardian, states the following about teenagers:
Teenage brains have more synaptic connections than adult ones, which makes them highly impressionable, as they’re building synapses and modifying them as they learn. They are primed to learn quickly and can memorize things faster.Secrets of the teenage brain
Jay Giedd, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego says in an article from Society for Neuroscience, says:
It’s a time of vulnerability…it’s the most common time for mental illnesses to emerge — 70 percent of illnesses emerge during this timeInside Neuroscience: Vulnerabilities of the Adolescent Brain
This age is the most impressionable one in our lives and considering that most of this time has been stuffed with the perfect side on Instagram, the toxic trends of TikTok, the lack of accountability, and minimal effort to tackle these issues by the responsible people, this is truly the peak of the cataclysm that no one is surprised by.
What Can We do?
Well, for starters, the only thing we can do is to use the ‘algorithm’ for our own benefit. Fill your feed with things that drive you away from anything toxic. Fill it with things that, as Marie Kondo would say, spark joy and dump the rest.
Or, if you have the heart for it, delete these platforms. But we all know that we’re gonna miss our unhealthy relationship, and come back.
Another would be to keep reminding ourselves and those around us of our worth. The beauty standards that give you anxiety and depression, are not the ones worth falling into. Trust me.