Minimal features do not address the fundamental cause of the problem.
In a tiny recognition of the psychological influence the Facebook-owned app may have on young people, Instagram is poised to start encouraging teens to “take a break” from the social media site.
In an interview with CNN, Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said the app will introduce a number of new features aimed at assisting negatively affected people, which should make “a significant difference.”
Clegg emphasised that Instagram would “nudge” users to look at other material if they were “looking at the same stuff again and over, and it’s content that may not be beneficial to their well-being,” as well as asking younger users to temporarily leave the site if necessary.
After the whistleblower Frances Haugen, who revealed the truth about internal Facebook research around Instagram’s impact on teens’ mental health, Facebook has put its ambitions for a kid-friendly version of Instagram on hold.
According to presentation slides leaked to The Wall Street Journal, thirty-two percent of young females stated that when they felt awful about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse, and many teenagers blamed Instagram for rises in the prevalence of anxiety and despair. This was an unprompted emotion that was shared by all groups.
That’s a significant amount, and the fact that it’s based on Facebook’s own study makes it all the more damaging.
The Day of Reckoning for Facebook
Whereas Facebook’s proposed nudges may have an influence, they are insignificant in comparison to the scope of the problem or the built-in incentives to ‘doom scrolling’ endlessly through news feeds, which were created using the same ‘pull down’ mechanism as Las Vegas slot machines.
Even urging teenagers to take a break has its limitations. The issue is that social networking applications are frequently misunderstood as a way for us to unwind from our work monitors, our chatting friends, our bickering family, or the monotony of waiting for a bus. It’s a constant source of distraction, and although encouraging adolescents to ‘take a break’ now and again is important, it won’t be enough to solve the problem.
It’s comparable to advertising telling consumers to stop gambling when the fun is over: something’s addictive nature makes even leaving at the point of agony impossible.
Instagram provided an option to completely conceal like counts in May 2021 , and we’ll need more examples like this of the service critically evaluating its own processes and genuinely dealing with its influence on teen mental health rather than merely advising users to quit the app every now and again.