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Instagram and its damage to teen girls’ body image
The harmful impact Instagram has on teenage girls and their negative body image perceptions may just lie in the essence of the platform itself.
Dr Jasmine Fadouly, a Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales, says that Instagram being an image-based platform, makes it ‘difficult to not be appearance-focused’.
An internal Instagram presentation seen by the Wall Street Journal said 32% of teenage girls feeling bad about their bodies reported feeling worse due to Instagram. It also found that 13% and 6% of British and American teen users respectively, who had reported suicidal thoughts, traced these feelings back to use of the Instagram platform.
Researchers suggest body image and depression issues associated with social media platforms such as Instagram, may be induced by the tendency for humans to compare themselves to others. This coupled with a tendency to want to put the best version of themselves forward, Dr Fadouly comments “that on social media people often present a very enhanced, unrealistic version of their appearance.”
So what can Instagram do to fight the problem? Phillippa Diedrichs, a body image researcher who has consulted for Instagram, suggests that Instagram could start by promoting a more diverse range of body shapes and sizes, which may lead to a positive impact on body image and mental health.
While Instagram themselves have released a statement on the app, promising to find “opportunities to jump in if we see people dwelling on certain types of content”, many experts remain sceptical about whether these social media platforms can make changes when their revenue streams are tied to promoting content that can negatively impact body perception.
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