When 13-year-old Anastasia Vlasova had her own Instagram account for the first time, she was attracted by sparkling fitness influencers.
Young and beautiful, with a healthy complexion, a well-shaped figure, perfect abdominal muscles, the endurance to easily complete 100 bobby jumps, and always smiling and full of vitality… Everything makes her very yearning. For a while, Vlasova couldn't help blogging on Instagram for 3 hours a day, hoping to encourage herself to move to the gym and eat a healthy diet.
Things changed later. Vlasova began to experience symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
When I turned off Instagram, I felt bad. I would look in the mirror and think, oh my god, I’m so different from these fitness influencers, I need to exercise. Later, this kind of thinking became a bit deformed. Every time I ate unhealthy food, I began to punish myself… Because of Instagram, I suffered from eating disorders.
The Wall Street Journal reported that for the past three years, Facebook has been studying how Instagram affects young users.
Some recently leaked internal research documents show that they are fully aware of these negative effects, but have been vague in public, only emphasizing the benefits of social networks, and refusing to share research results with scholars and legislatures.
The perfect other, the social abyss that makes young people "depressed"
32% of underage girls said that Instagram makes them feel worse when they don't like or even hate their bodies. The social comparison of Instagram will change how young women perceive and describe themselves.
In a study published internally by Facebook in March 2020, the above statement was clearly written. This conclusion is not the first time it has appeared. Another internal study in 2019 also pointed out: "We make the physical anxiety problem of 1/3 of adolescent girls worse."
According to the analysis of the researchers, TikTok is dominated by fun performances, and Snapchat’s various stickers and filters make people focus on the face. In contrast, Instagram pays much attention to the body and lifestyle, and its social comparison is also better than others. The platform is more serious.
Vlasova's situation is not an exception. More girls are on the verge of "depressing" because of Instagram.
17-year-old Eva Behrens said that more than half of the girls in her school grade are struggling with the body anxiety caused by Instagram. Molly Pitts, also 17 years old, discovered that her peers were using Instagram to measure each other's popularity, and she was frightened every time she checked her followers.
And 19-year-old Lindsay Dubin simply searched for "exercise". Then, her Instagram page was full of recommendations on how to lose weight, the ideal body shape for women, and how to lose weight. The algorithm thinks it understands her, but actually Let her collapse.
Facebook's research also found that teenagers spontaneously attribute the increase in anxiety and depression to Instagram; in addition, 13% of British users and 6% of American users say their ideas originated from Instagram among teenagers with suicidal thoughts.
Regarding the impact of social networks on the mental health of adolescents, academics have been studying it, and "social comparison" seems to be an inevitable pressure-why is my waist not as thin as hers? Why does her healthy meal look more delicious? Why can her smile be so clear and sweet? How can I have her skin that can be broken by blowing a bomb? Why do I work so hard, but still so ordinary?
Facebook’s research shows that both boys and girls have had such negative social comparison experiences.
The human brain can easily compare itself with other members of the same species, which is a primitive way of self-protection.
Psychotherapist Rebecca Sparkes said that "social comparison" is human nature. Only in primitive times, we were limited by geographic location and only compared with tribe members around us; and today, through the Internet, we can contact people from all over the world. A bright and beautiful model on the other side of the ocean can become a model at any time through social networks. Your target audience.
The results of this social comparison can be devastating.
On Instagram (which can be compared to Xiaohongshu in China), the content posted by everyone is equipped with filters for a better life. It is a collection of highlights and well-planned personalities. No one can live like that all the time, but for the sake of good-looking data and advertising revenue, Internet celebrities create illusions to you again and again: I am beautiful, confident, rich, and have a lot of free time. As long as you work hard, you can become me. .
When you compare your real self with the "masks" of others, it is inevitable that you will have feelings of dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and frustration, making you unable to judge the true value of yourself, and even leading to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and body shame.
▲Social networks will not tell you how many layers of meat are in the belly of the blogger
Of course, the audience is not only affected by this field, but the bright and moving internet celebrity may also be struggling with anxiety and depression.
Wearing blogger Camille Charriere has 1.1 million followers on Instagram. She has a unique style of dressing, a luxurious house, big brands give her nice clothes, and she is often invited to various parties… It stands to reason that girls are envious of who they want to be, but she often falls into comparison unconsciously.
Sometimes in a bad day, these thoughts will turn into a negative state of mind, making me frustrated and depressed. I will belittle myself and think that I am worthless, and everyone lives better than me.
▲ Instagram blogger Camille Charriere
GQ reports once shared the story of a small red book blogger Jiang Donglin . She earned her first 1 million in her life in 2018. When she was invited to participate in a luxury brand show, she sat in the second row and said she envied the bloggers in the first row. She never talks about her negative emotions in Xiaohongshu, there is only the perfect side of her life. Post-00 bloggers are gaining momentum. Jiang Donglin will suffer from insomnia due to insufficiently good-looking data, and can't sleep with anxiety. Only Weibo trumpet and the people around her know.
This kind of unglamorous story is rarely seen by teenagers on Instagram. The traffic password of the social network will only deliver you the "longing for life" wrapped in layers of filters; and the consensus of "only sharing the best moments" can make everyone involved in it fall into a morbid state.
Can the "depressive" technology be cured?
Statistics show that more than 40% of Instagram users are 22 years old and under; in the United States, about 22 million teenagers log in and use Instagram every day.
Because Instagram is so popular among young people, in the report of The Wall Street Journal, the reporter spent a lot of pen and ink accusing Facebook, and after learning of the negative impact of Instagram on young people, they did not act, publicly acknowledge, or share. Research results.
Some congressmen believe that just as tobacco companies should directly state that "smoking is harmful to health," Facebook should also more candidly explain the relationship between social networks, adolescents, and depression.Daniel Liss ,the founder of Dispo, further proposed that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) treat Instagram's algorithm as a drug that can affect mental health and supervise it.
Instagram responded , “A lot of people are thinking about whether social media is good or bad, and the results of research on this are mixed: it can have both. In Instagram, we will pay attention to the benefits and risks of things,” adding that Instagram A lot of work has been done on cyberbullying, suicide, self-harm, and eating disorders, hoping to become a safe place for everyone.
According to data from the World Health Organization , 16% of the global "sick" adolescent population has a mental health problem; depression is one of the main causes of adolescent illness and disability; and suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adolescents aged 15-19 .
With the popularization of the concept of mental health, today, more and more people are beginning to face problems such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Technology companies also need to manage their own "one-acre three-part land", adjust product mechanisms, or set content supervision/access rules to help users deal with related risks they may face-but it is often not as simple as a "one size fits all" .
For example, when it comes to suicide, self-harm and eating disorders, Instagram’s approach is to not promote or encourage related content, but allow people to share their struggles; and when encountering relevant search terms, Instagram will guide you through professional platforms For help. Allegedly , this approach comes from expert advice from academia and mental health organizations.
▲ Instagram guideline help page
Such a platform policy has brought about a phenomenon called "Instagram therapy" .
A professional psychotherapist has opened an Instagram account and used a simple 60-second catchy video , hoping to get rid of some misunderstandings about depression. Some life principles and meme diagrams related to mental health have been spread. There are also users who suffer from eating disorders. Through Instagram hashtags and searches, they can find other people with similar experiences to establish connections , gain spiritual support and reduce loneliness.
▲ Some “Instagram therapy'' content with strong chicken soup
Of course, these so-called "Instagram therapies" cannot really replace face-to-face psychological counseling and treatment. But its appearance confirms that the world is not black and white: Yes, Instagram makes you anxious and "depressed", but at the same time it also allows people to find each other.
If you look farther, you will find that mental health has become a field that some technology companies take the initiative to set foot in.
According to the "Wall Street Journal" report , Apple is currently collaborating with the University of California, Los Angeles and the pharmaceutical company Biogen to conduct research on anxiety and depression and mild cognitive impairment. Researchers hope to use a series of data, such as facial expressions, physical activity patterns, sleeping habits, typing behavior, etc., to help detect whether a person suffers from depression and cognitive decline. People familiar with the matter said that these features may be implemented on the iPhone.
According to CBinsights data , in recent years, the amount of financing in the mental health field has been increasing steadily, approaching US$2 billion in 2020, and currently seven unicorn companies have been born.
You can relieve anxiety and stress through courses in meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace. You can also get encouragement from chatbots such as Woebot, or find a professionally certified psychotherapist on platforms such as Talkspace for remote psychological consultation. Many Silicon Valley companies have even turned psychological counseling into standard employee benefits, and can even be included in the medical insurance system.
▲ American swimmer "Flying Fish" Phelps endorsed Talkspace
In the past two years, some apps have even obtained the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards and can be used as "prescription drugs" to assist in treatment. For example, EndeavorRx is a video game that allows children to treat ADHD, while NightWare is used for adults to treat "Nightmare Disorder", and generally requires a prescription from a doctor to use it.
▲ EndeavorRx game interface
You may be able to monitor the depression caused by your ins by using your iPhone in the future. At the same time technology creates anxiety, it also tries to resolve anxiety. Is all this considered as defeating magic with magic?
I really look forward to the following dialogue coming true one day:
"Hey Siri, how are you?"
"Fine, thank you and you?"
"Um… so so."
"The data shows that you have not had enough sleep in the last month, you have lost weight suddenly, your stress index has exceeded the standard, and you have been in a state of anxiety and restlessness for a long time. This is probably a symptom of depression. Do you need me to contact your family for you or seek professional advice from a doctor? "
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