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60 Minutes recently released an interview with Frances Haugen, otherwise known as the Facebook Whistleblower. Haugen quit her job at Facebook in May and took a bunch of research with her that basically shows that Facebook knows how horrible it is and doesn’t care (big surprise, right?). Now she’s filing a lawsuit because she wants more regulation on the company. In the interview, her basic message is that Instagram is the single most damaging social media app for teenage girls. It contributes to eating disorders and mental health issues like anxiety and depression, which only perpetuates their use of the app. 

Now, I have had an Instagram since I was 12 years old, and I am now 20, and I am also a girl, so I feel like I have a pretty relevant point of view on this subject. I had an Instagram for the entirety of my teenage years, and I agree that the app is pretty terrible for everyone’s mental health, not just teenage girls. I don’t think it got better just because I turned 20, and I don’t think that boys don’t also struggle with body image issues just like girls do. 

What I don’t totally get about this situation is why this seems to be a shock to everyone.

I could be wrong, but people seem to be surprised by the entire situation. Obviously Facebook’s data is going to tell them that their product is making people depressed because social media is really one big platform for everyone to compare themselves to everyone else. And obviously Facebook is going to do exactly nothing about it because they are a business that makes money off of the people that use their products. I would like to clarify that I am not commenting on what Facebook should or shouldn’t do in this situation; I am just saying that what they did isn’t very surprising. Is it morally wrong? Maybe. But would they be the first big-name company to do something morally wrong for the benefit of the company? No.  

I can only speak from my own experience, and I’ll readily admit that my relationship with my Instagram isn’t totally healthy. Honestly, I broke my phone this summer and almost freaked out having to spend 15 hours without it. I love Instagram because it helps me keep in touch with my friends, but the model of ‘likes’ providing instant gratification can make for unhealthy habits. I really only post a picture if I’m looking for attention, and that is the honest truth. I also know for a fact that I am not the only person who uses the app that way. 

I understand that social media is bad for my mental health. I struggled during high school with body image issues because of social media, and I am lucky that I did not experience more severe damage to my mental health. I also struggled a lot at the beginning of college because social media made me feel very alone. I thought everyone was making friends when I wasn’t. I’ve realized that with social media, and Instagram specifically, things are not always as they seem. It’s easy to fabricate oneself and one’s life on the internet. I now limit my usage of Instagram because I know it’s better for me. 

Ultimately, the downfalls of social media should not be news to people. Social media has been a breeding ground for cyberbullying, eating disorders, and mental health issues since it was created. I am not shocked that Instagram is wreaking havoc on female teenagers, as horrible as it is, and I am not shocked that Facebook is doing nothing about it. Unfortunately, I think that as horrible as social media is also how addictive it is. It’s a self-sustaining system, and it is unlikely that social media will ever be outlawed or discontinued.

The Facebook Whistleblower wants regulation on the company, and maybe that’s the answer. But all we can do until that happens (if it ever does), is regulate ourselves. The onus is on us.

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Catherine is from Boston MA. She is a junior in the College of Communications at Boston University. Her hobbies include reading and taking walks, and she is also a member of BU's sailing team. Catherine has been a writer for Her Campus since the fall of 2020, and recently joined the editing team this past fall. She is currently pursuing a major in journalism and a minor in English.
Ava is a pre-law senior at Boston University studying English with a minor in history. She loves traveling, drinking excessive amounts of hot chocolate, creative writing, and skydiving. You can find her on instagram @avazing !
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