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Facebook knows Instagram is toxic for teen girls, company documents show (wsj.com)
1064 points by jmsflknr 6 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 638 comments


“The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a congressional hearing...

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues. “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

From what researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board.

"Using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits"

That statement cannot be false because it is devoid of any content, being a mere hypothetical. The fact that it is surrounded by "research" is meaningless as well, as the aforementioned sentence is like saying "the elements of the empty set fulfil all properties"...

So no, they are not contradicting themselves. They are simply and wantonly misleading people.

Most corporate PR statements are crafted this way. They often give the illusion of saying something because all the key words of saying something are there, but they're often crafted in a way that if read carefully, say almost nothing at all or have a giant disclaimer in small font that essentially says *none of this maybe true and is subject to change.

A lot of pharmaceutical advertisements do this to: this might help you, it might also kill you, you choose(!) but please ask your doctor about us anyways and throw us some money.

I love looking at pharmaceutical advertising in this way - what they do say is the absolute legally maximum they could say about the product. If there were stronger claims, they could make them.

Therefore, if they say "may help against X", then it doesn't really, because if they had substantial evidence of that, they would state that.

But in the case of pharmaceuticals there is at least rigorous scientific evidence behind the statements. Even so, science does not have all the answers, and to pretend so would be making a mockery of the scientific method.

The research the GP's quote is referencing said Instagram made 41% feel better, 31% worse, and no impact for the other 28%. It's not clear why that can be used as evidence that it makes some girls feel worse about themselves but that it makes some girls feel better about themselves.

I've come up with a new sports drink. X% of people say it makes them feel good! WOOO! Y% don't feel anything. About one in Z people will absolutely feel worse. If you have suicidal thoughts, about one in ten of those will be able to attribute their suicidal thinking to my drink. When interviewed about my drink, teenagers will unprompted blame the drink on increasing rates of anxiety and and depression. If you feel unattractive, odds are about even you started feeling that way when you started drinking my drink. Teens regularly report wanting to drink less of my drink but lack the self control to do so. In part this is because they report feeling like they have to be seen drinking my drink. I know all this because I employ researchers who say they can't get people in my sports drink company to take their findings seriously because those researchers are "standing directly between people and their bonuses". So my execs don't use our internal research, but cite instead other studies (by orgs that I donate to) that highlight the positives.

I make $BILLIONS from this drink.

(fill in whatever value of X, Y and Z makes this all ok)

Alcohol is not a sports drink.

Probably any social activity is similar. I'm willing to bet the statistics for "high school prom" are much worse. And then there's Cosmo and Vogue...

Your note that the world is sexist and many things make women, teens and girls continously negatively evaluate themselves is something I agree.

The rest I would truly contest.

Prom is not an every single morning, universe commenting event no matter how the teenage brain may attempt to blow it up.

Cosmo and Vogue do not have the same continuous feedback loop and clearly have 100x (1000x? 1mnx?) less content being created, repeated, refreshed, etc. Its a magazine. If you want to invoke their IG handles honestly I could find 100s of influencers with more reach and engagement

> Your note that the world is sexist and many things make women, teens and girls continously negatively evaluate themselves

How did you pull this from a rather benign statement about high school prom and magazines?

I think in contemporary culture and media in western nations sexism is vastly exaggerated. At least if you use the classical definition. Someone who is sexist rarely burdens people with expectations since those are by definition quite low.

I believe other social phenomena are responsible for this, mainly forms of peer pressur. The stories influencers use to lure their audiences often invokes the threat of sexism and that naturally increases fears that might lead to a feedback loop.

Without data, these are biased assumptions.

wow this is fascinating, taking the veneer of something in the tautological space and using it as sheep's clothing over something known to be a wolf. There's something curious about this form of misleading that deserves to be identified and named to be called out in future instances.

"Foods containing sugar have been found to save lives in a number of studies."

"Regular smoking use is associated with lower BMI, which is shown to correlate with improved heart health and lower mortality rates."

"Use of fossil fuels powers a number of ecology-preserving tasks, allowing us to care for the environment in a way we could not without this amazing source of Earth-loving fuel."

You are far too good at crafting these passages.

It's fairly easy if you understand the meaning of "can be true". There can be countless instances where it's not true but if you find just _one_ instance where it's true, then your "can be true" statement must be true.

Love it.

It still needs a name. Here let me try:

Disproportionate benefit insinuation error: Implying (without explicitly stating that it has more benefits than disadvantages because that would be a disprovable lie) that because something has some benefit, it is overall helpful.

Or just "plausible deniability"- factually stating the existence of a beneficial tree, but omitting mention of the harmful forest

Or just "cherry-picking"

Or to cover cases where a harm is insinuated/emphasized in the same way in order to discredit something (see: literally all the antivax data, antiscience, antimedicine... "trust doctors, you mean like the ones who prescribed thalidomide?")... "Misrepresenting the forest"

maybe a good contraction would be a disbeni

It has a name, its called "sophistry", and the practitioners "sophists". [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophist

Nice short episode on them here for those who are interested


Gorgias was perhaps the most well-known ancient Sophist, and is also the namesake of one of Plato's Dialogues, which happens to be one of my favourites. Highly recommend reading the above, and into sophistry and rhetoric more generally, if you're the sort that gets annoyed by modern bullshit, and wants a set of names and tactics to defend the sanctity (and sanity) of your opinions.

Once you notice the "Weasel words" [1] you'll never see a press release like this one the same way again.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weasel_word

This is called creating a narrative by cherry picking facts. This is what the media does, and is why so many people (most Americans per Pew) distrust them.

Disingenuous non sequitur?

Yes. When he goes to those hearings, Zuckerberg fixes a spot and begins all of his answers with "[pause] Senator... [pause] [Generic reassuring statement] <very clever and deceptive answer>. (https://youtu.be/XXuk-WSDDRw?t=111)

There's a conspiracy theory stating that he's wearing AR contact lenses such as those (https://www.wired.com/story/mojo-vision-smart-contact-lens/) and we know he's been working on this since 2017 (https://www.dezeen.com/2017/04/20/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-e...).

It's a true statement. Surely connecting via social apps has had positive mental health benefits on at least one person. That alone would make it true.

I think the problem is most people probably read the statement and don't realize just how weak the evidence required to make it true is.

I would interpret it as "connecting via social apps has a greater than absolute 0 probability of giving positive mental health benefits".

Then I think we're in agreement? "Connecting via social apps has a non-0 probability of giving (to whom? at least one person?) positive mental health benefits".

Exactly. If one person in the world benefits from using Instagram and the other 7 billion people get depressed, then the statement FB made is still true.

I am agreeing with you. Just mentioning how I frame/see it in my head.

I'm not defending Facebook and I just had some thoughts reading the quotes and am curious what you think of them.

1. I remember that while growing up fashion magazines, actors/actresses and I want to say peer pressure (but am fearful its incorrect) were a big source of body image issues.

2. Maybe it's a side effect of our society or "normal" to have security issues while growing up. We've been having good childhoods for how long - 100 years? Maybe there are some feelings that we never had the option of expressing or feeling.

The less I want is to defend Facebook but I think lately people don't want to acknowledge their own responsibilities. It's like every time there is a problem, the cause is someone/something else. I don't think Instagram is impossed to anyone. Young people can feel the pressure to use it because their friends use it but they aren't forced to do so.

From the article it seems that young girls know about the toxicity in the application, why they keep using it? if their parents are aware too, why do they let their daughters use it?

I have a personal grudge against anyone saying "Why don't the parents take some responsibility to combat a multi-billion dollar company who puts the resources of small countries in to making their children behave in detrimental ways."

But I'll not get in to that. :)

Facebook and Instagram are drug dealers. Sure, they're not physically distributing a substance, but the social interactions they provide are every bit as addictive. In time, society will abolish or tightly constrain them in the same way society has banned other highly addictive substances.

And this is why I don't blame the users.

I will say emphatically that parents of teens are the most influential people in their lives, whether acknowledged or no. It is likely the case that parents will forever be the most influential people in someone's life and the positions you take, the behaviors you engage in, and what you teach will stick with them for their whole lives. Take a stance and teach them. They may rebel, they may not, but years down the road your opinion will likely inform their reflections and help guide their future actions.

getting off soapbox

>I will say emphatically that parents of teens are the most influential people in their lives

I don't work in behavioral science, but this isn't my understanding. I was under the impression that research indicates peers are the larger influence, which can be tempered somewhat by parents. For an easy example, whether or not peers smoke is a better predictor than whether parents smoke.

Not true in educational outcome. Almost all educational outcome is correlated with parent situations, effect of the school is within the noise.

Fair point. Most of the studies I came across were focused on aberrant behavior.

Sure but in the long run parents can choose the peer group for children.

I’d argue it may be possible in the short term but not in the long term unless the idea is to raise your child like a house cat.

Well to elaborate on that… kids under 16 go to the schools their parents decide on, live in the neighborhoods their parents decide on, and associated with the kids of their parents friends when they were younger.

Those are their peers.

They aren’t their friends. Kids make their own friends, but it’s unusual for them to be able to make lifestyle choices like where they live before adulthood.

To note, your peers aren’t people on Instagram per se. I’d guess a study on the issue would say that a peer group they associate with on daily basis like in school would have more of an effect on their choices than Instagram influencers.

>kids under 16 go to the schools their parents decide on, live in the neighborhoods their parents decide on, and associated with the kids of their parents friends when they were younger.

True, but for most people this is only available within a subset of constrained choices. Parents in rural Appalachia or the rust belt probably aren’t going to have a lot of Phillips Academies to choose from

As a person who grew up in rural Appalachia certainly Phillips was not an option. But, choosing a municipality with an emphasis on the value of education certainly was something my parents actively did. And, we had families across the economic spectrum in my school.

Thanks for weighing in with your experience. I grew up in a dying industrial town in the rust belt and choices were very limited. It might be possible for a slightly better school by moving but it would incur penalties most families couldn’t afford (higher home prices, 2-3 hr round trip commutes etc)

I will say emphatically that parents of teens are the most influential people in their lives

You might say that, but you would be wrong. Parents of teens have been the most influential people in their lives up to them becoming teens. Part of the process into adulthood is to break away from that pattern, to explore and build connections outside the family sphere. That's why teens are the most vulnerable demographic for a lot of things -- their brains are in the process of rewiring themselves for more personal responsibility and less parental oversight. So they're actively seeking to avoid parental control, but haven't yet learned to correctly weigh and assess long-term effects of their decisions.

You can’t decouple the entire growth process from 0-teen though…

Agreed, and the parent comment hasn't done that. Its identified a shift and a period of time that indicates the (usually) first shift of its kind in a person's social life.

While parents may or may not be the “most” influential people in a child’s life, I think it is certainly possible that the influence of parents/family/tribe can decrease in relation to the influence of the broader world due to changes outside of the parents’ control.

I certainly think the internet gave me access to many more humans, ideas, and tribes than my parents' generation had access to, and it would be hard for me to see how it would have been possible for my parents to have as much influence on me as their parents had on them.

I would even say it is indisputable there are forces beyond parents’ control unless the parents opt to live an Amish lifestyle, such as using devices connected to the internet and various social networks. If you do not give it to your kid, someone at school will, and even more, you probably need to teach your kid how to play the game rather than have them start it blind while the other players have experience.

There are different levels of influence, though. Yes, parents can assert a lot of control over their children, but at a certain age they start looking at their peers and being influenced by them to a tremendous degree.

And not all parents realize, or can realize, everything that goes on in their childrens' lives.

Parental control cannot and can never be used as a singular or even more influential factor to societal level problems. Parents can have all the best intentions in the world but if the society they’re trying to raise children in is broken, they can’t protect those children forever.

It isn't about protection. It is about values and moral principles. Parents can teach children tools about self control and mindfulness about evaluating if things are good for them or not. Teens and young adults have to explore and figure out their place in the world apart from their parents, but the skills and values taught are often transcendent of the shifting values in culture.

Let's face it, powerful forces in our society discourage self-control and critical reflection, and culture encourages people to have children regardless of whether they have learned those skills

“culture encourages people to have children…”

That’s not true in any western country :)

This is true, and people with highly involved parents, on the average, destroy their lives with drugs less frequently than those with absentee or abusive parents. We still throw heroin dealers in jail.

Have you ever been a teen? When I was a teenager when my parents told me to stay away from something, I would absolutely check it out.

Have you ever met a teen? Maybe Instagram isn't the party bringing the toxicity.

> I have a personal grudge against anyone saying (...)

There is no need to have any grudge against me (I hope). I get it. I never said being a parent is an easy job. I acknowledge how hard it is but...

> Facebook and Instagram are drug dealers

If you teach your kids not to consume drugs, why Instagram should be any different?

> If you teach your kids not to consume drugs, why Instagram should be any different?

Imagine if all the other kids at school used drugs on a daily basis, that there was advertising plastered everywhere telling you that drugs are cool, that successful people use drugs and that your worth in this world can be directly tied to successful use of drugs.

I don't mean to sound mean here, but are you a parent? If not I suspect you're not really aware of the realities of parenting, particularly once a child becomes teenage. You can only do so much. And you certainly can't win against a multi-billion dollar enterprise determined to make your rebellion-inclined teenager do something.

This is quite an interesting thought experiment. As noted by @aspaviento, they were able to resist smoking, regardless of surrounding influences.

Do you have any comments on the tactics used by cigarette companies -- specifically in the United States -- before the 1998 "Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement"? When I was a kid, the amount of advertising by tobacco was incredible. It was unavoidable and everywhere... and any cool or famous seemed associated with cigarette companies.

Even if you ignore smoking cigarettes, the topic of smoking marijuana will surely be a major issue for current and next gen parents. How would you parent around this issue? It is so complex.

> Do you have any comments on the tactics used by cigarette companies -- specifically in the United States -- before the 1998 "Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement"?

The tactics worked? Rates of smoking used to be way higher in the past.

In 1997 highschool smoking rate peaked at 36.4%. Resisting smoking is quite difficult as a teenager, in spite of parents efforts.


I don't want to use myself as an example because it's just my experience but when I was young people around me smoked, many of my teachers smoked and in TV and movies smoking was still accepted as something approved by society. But I was taught not to do it and never did it.

With this I just want to say that I know it's a difficult task but presenting it as a lost battle/impossible seems to me wrong.

I know you probably intuit this based on your pre-emptive caveat about anecdotal evidence, but a quick online search seems to indicate that your experience may not be the norm.

"Peers’ smoking is the strongest predictor of adolescent smoking."[1]

[1] Gecková, A.M., Stewart, R., van Dijk, J.P., Orosová, O.G., Groothoff, J.W. and Post, D., 2005. Influence of socio-economic status, parents and peers on smoking behaviour of adolescents. European addiction research, 11(4), pp.204-209.

> With this I just want to say that I know it's a difficult task but presenting it as a lost battle/impossible seems to me wrong.

The thing is, we made headway in the battle against smoking by disallowing people from doing all those things. You're not allowed to market to kids, you're not allowed to depict smoking in most TV that kids are likely to watch, you're not allowed to smoke in or near schools and teachers who do are frowned upon. Cigarettes themselves are taxed heavily specifically to price young people out of getting into the habit, vendors are required to card, and the cigarette makers are even required to pay into a fund that promotes anti-smoking messaging.

So yes it is definitely not an impossible task. But the things that make it possible require taking it seriously as a danger and addressing it collectively.

Do you really think all those people aroubd you eere taught to smoke?

> when I was young people around me smoked

> But I was taught not to do it and never did it.

So not all young people in your time were taught similarly. Or if they were, those teachings didn't stick.

Ideally the number of minors smoking would be zero. I don't think that's a radical idea, and I hope it's something that everyone can agree on. "Teachings from parents" obviously didn't achieve that goal, from your own experience.

> Imagine if all the other kids at school used drugs on a daily basis

In many high schools this isn't far off the truth.

In some respects, "Say No to Drugs" seems out of date when some very advanced democracies have already legalised some drugs or are close to it. That said, I understand your sentiment. No parent should be encouraging their children to become habitual cocaine users!

One thing that does some "obvious" for this generation of parents: Work hard to educate your children on the dangers of traditional cigarette smoking. That is a seriously terrible habit for your health and well-being. I feel much less so about vaping (e-cigarettes), as the health effects of nicotine addiction are still far lower than traditional cigarette smoke inhaled into the lungs.

> In some respects, "Say No to Drugs" seems out of date when some very advanced democracies have already legalised some drugs or are close to it.

I think there's a certain nuance there. Drugs (which ones?) can (should?) be legal - or at least their consumption decriminalized. We've made good progress already and yet much more is to be made.

But all this is not saying that drugs should be pushed hand over fist down people's throat and that billions should be spent on studying the ways people can be more encouraged to become drug users.

And this is what Facebook et al are doing. They are spending untold resources on devising the most efficient ways of making people addicted and ensuring that no other way exist of satisfying the cravings. They create echo chambers and push specifically topics that get the most response out of people.

And this is completely legal (currently). Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok etc... are allowed to be cool, hip, desirable and consumed in ways that the tobacco industry couldn't imagine in their wildest dreams during their heydays.

These companies can tap into the deepest secrets and desires of vast swathes of people in ways that is unprecedented.

I feel that the vices of the old world, like drugs, are chickenshit compared to the power that the new vices can wield over their captives.

Nicotine and alcohol drugs are already legal everywhere :) . We are just hypocrites, classifying them separately.

Sorry, I agree my grudge comment came off hard. No offence I hope?

No offence, I understood from where you came.

>>In time, society will abolish or tightly constrain them in the same way society has banned other highly addictive substances.

I hope not, the War on Drugs is one of the biggest disasters in modern history, directly linked to untold problems in society

You've now got me picturing a guy holding tablets in a trench coat in a dark alley with asking some teenagers passing buy if they wanna buy some time on social media.

"I got it all, buddy. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook...I can hook you up."

What will be the crack and cocaine in this situation? What other untold horrors will unfold while privileged or naive citizens and politicians all around stay cozy whilst the war on drugs caused havoc and destroyed so many lives and communities.

“We” certainly blamed the users of addictive substances and vilified or at least looked down on them. That is until it was heavily white and middle class or above people with opoids. Even then it was slow, but some things were done. Far more than what was done with other highly addictive substances. It’s a disgrace.

I shutter to think any drug banning history happen in any other context.

Ditto for online pornography. And unlike chemical drugs that have to be transported and administered, these images and videos fly through the wires into childrens' bedrooms.

I know, because like most children, I was exposed to online porn at a young age and was addicted to it well into my adult life. These companies need regulation, because they are bad actors.

Ditto for online pornography.

Nah. That's been studied heavily. Here's an overview from the National Institutes of Health.[1] Wikipedia has an overview.[2] The overall conclusion is that most of the research is of terrible quality and there's no big measurable effect.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6352245/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_pornography

Here is strong evidence to the contrary from the NIH:

>The proposed DSM-5, slated to publish in May of 2014, contains in this new addition the diagnosis of Hypersexual Disorder, which includes problematic, compulsive pornography use. Bostwick and Bucci, in their report out of the Mayo Clinic on treating Internet pornography addiction with naltrexone, wrote “…cellular adaptations in the (pornography) addict’s PFC result in increased salience of drug-associated stimuli, decreased salience of non-drug stimuli, and decreased interest in pursuing goal-directed activities central to survival.”

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050060/

That's from one case, and it's worth reading.[1]

[1] https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(11)...

You first claim that most of the research is terrible, then also claim that research shows 'no big measurable effect'. Can you clarify what you mean?

>[porn companies] need regulation

No, nothing needs regulation. Stop making the internet fucking worse. Can we go back to 2000 now (not that it was good then either since the internet was fundamentally broken already)? This is like the bat shit insane morons who think having a popup about cookies on every page is solving the """privacy""" issue.

Literally every single political issue on HN is bogus. Take the ad blocking issue for instance, nothing that has ads actually matters. Your "solutions" like Brave are pure garbage.

The "privacy" issue doesn't exist because if we were using sane tech instead of webshit, there wouldn't be any tracking since it wouldn't be conceptually possible. Why the hell can tech even track you in the first place for reading static documents? This is a poor analog that cannot even compete with paper newspapers (which are also much more legible because they are not on LCDs).

Net neutrality doesn't matter because nobody can ELI5 why I should care about it. Since the internet is all garbage, it shouldn't be an issue that it's expensive. Just don't use it. Make a free replacement. Cuban citizens have already done it.

Now let me try and list CURRENT_YEAR.addictions:

- Games

- Working out

- Porn

- Social media

- TV (youtube or whatever you use now)

- HN (muh dunning kruger syndrome, imposter, et al)

- Eating

- Lotto tickets

- Stock market

- Programming

- Working

- Drugs

- Things that are sort of drugs but not

- Any substance what so ever

- Benchmarking

- Politics

- Literally any hobby

Oh look guys, HN needs to be regulated because I can come up with a person who has problems because of it.

Guys we need to regulate fat and high calorie food. Oh wait it grows on trees.

People who see a problem and immediately go "we need regulation to solve this" (and even proceed to come up with some ad-hoc hypothesis of how it solves the problem after it's proven that it doesn't solve it in a substantial way) are morons. There is actually something wrong with their brain. They hold back progress. Every new law is a potential stumbling block for progress and thus why new legislation should be avoided at all costs. See MECHANISM NOT POLICY article on wikipedia to see how people already knew about this 70 years ago in tech.

> nothing needs regulation

This is a hyperbolic statement. Even if you are just talking about internet regulation.

Let's imagine for a moment that someone invented a hypnosis algorithm and hosted it on a website. Anyone going to this website went into spasms and died in front of their screen. Would we seek protection for our children and for the general public from such a website from internet browser companies, ISPs and the government? Yes we would. This is an extreme example but it illustrates a point. You can say the same thing about websites that prey on children, or the elderly.

I'm not advocating for the banning of pornography altogether. I am making the simple proposition that it be better regulated. People who distribute porn know full well that their content is seen by minors. Having a child check a box that says that they are over 18 is not good enough. If I hadn't seen porn as a minor, I might have had a better chance of avoiding the extremely negative impacts that it can carry with it. Don't believe me? Visit a support page like r/NoFap and read the hundreds of thousands of stories there.

I'm not going to touch any of the other subjects you raised because I'm not arguing for any of the things you listed.

And just like that: Lawmakers Ask Zuckerberg to Drop 'Instagram for Kids' After Report Says App Made Kids Suicidal


>people are killing themselves because of instagram

Literally every social issue on the web for the last 20 years follows this one simple formula:

> X causes Y. Yes it sounds stupid, but read this long winded reasoning or spend the next 70 hours of your life going down my trail of studies to back this up

And nobody actually invests their lives in rebuking them, and they get bored and stop talking about it 5 years later.

Pornography does not cause you to go into spasms and die though. You being unable to control yourself does not justify undue restrictions on other people. The internet should not be ceded to nanny staters and morality police.

> Pornography does not cause you to go into spasms and die though.

I didn't say it did.

> You being unable to control yourself does not justify undue restrictions on other people.

I'm not talking about myself, I'm talking about minors. Protecting children from products that require an adult brain to ascertain harm is a positive function of government.

> The internet should not be ceded to nanny staters and morality police.

This is not about morality. Please don't read intentions where there are none.

Please tell us a concrete plan on how to "protect children" (a moral appeal) from porn. Name one set of rules that would satisfy your legal appetite.

I don't know why you keep insisting that this is a moral appeal. This is public health.

1 - mandate disclaimers in front of all videos describing the possible negative effects of porn (there are concrete, well-studied effects). cigarettes and tobacco have the same mandates and they do have an overall positive effect on educating the public

2 - hold video hosting sites liable if content is shown to minors. there is a reason why a bar can get closed down or a gas station attendee can lose his or her job if alcohol and tobacco is served to minors. the same rules need to apply for sexually explicit material that is turbocharged to reach children

> 1 - mandate disclaimers in front of all videos describing the possible negative effects of porn

Why would you think this will work? My parents, school, etc already gave you a million false warnings about porn and yet I looked at it. Did that even work for smoking? I think smoking only stopped once vape replaced it. Now I have to skip the intro logo as well as some stupid disclaimer, and producers have to waste more of their time on legal checkboxes, great.

> 2 - hold video hosting sites liable if content is shown to minors.

That's not a concrete plan. Do we need photo ID here? Some experimental crypto to disclose your government certified age to the website so it can decide not to kick you off? What about a forum where anyone can post any image? Does the forum have to be legally liable to block minors if it has no rule against porn?

The internet worked perfect in 2000. I got my porn when I was 13 and had no problem. There was not a single complaint aside from corporate scum trying to enforce DMCA crap (the multi billion dollar company was complaining, nobody else). Only when all you American idiots came in 2010 from faceberg all these pretend social problems started existing. The internet is literally just data transmission and this act could not be more harmless if you wanted it to be. Quite literally, the internet is the most harmless technology in existence. It cannot give you any disease, etc. It costs nothing, etc. What we are seeing here is the American art of being a professional victim. One should start by observing that almost every single complaint about the internet starts with "I read some text and now I am offended".

I envision the internet as community run, and free. The current internet is all obsolete garbage. The problem is, on this new internet we wont actually be able to make it because everything will be illegal by then. It will be illegal to run point to point to your neighbour because of some stupid porno law that has absolutely nothing to do with your application.

> Facebook and Instagram are drug dealers.


> the social interactions they provide are every bit as addictive.

I'm not familiar with actual research in this space, but i would imagine that its similarly addictive to being with friends IRL?

(To me) social media is a great tool to connect with friends and stay present even after we move away and work and pandemic quarantine. Its a suppliment for IRL relationships. I used to live with friends in college, and i used to go out and get food or drinks or whatever almost daily to get my "fix" of socialization.

Are social networks really that different? I recognize that some (teen girl?) people might wish they looked like a supermodel on social media or get jealousy of the lives of influences, but is that different from old magazine and movie stars? Is the mixture of "social" and "influences" to one news feed detrimental? Is there more exposure? What makes social networking more "addictive" (and therefore dangerous) than actual socialization?

Its true that social media is addictive, and also that companies intentionally design it to be so, but everyone bears some responsibility on that - from the companies, to the users, to the engineers working on it, to online authors referencing it/promoting it, etc, etc. So even if we argue about who gets what percentage of blame, it doesn't really change anything. We may convince 10-20 people in the comments section, but thats not really a solution. We need to contribute on a social media de-addiction guide or something.. :)

> And this is why I don't blame the users.

Not even a little? Users aren't brainless, as much as they'd want to make you believe.

The term I've used for years is electronic heroin. It's apt methinks.

Right, no one is forcing anyone to use their services. It is only that they create an environment, which is actively damaging other "players" in the environment:

If you are not using it, uninformed people will laugh about you (peer pressure, network effect). Furthermore, because so many people use FB, many people will use FB to organize events, which one does not even know about, because of not being on FB. In the end, they will spin it, because they do not know better themselves, that it is you, who isolated yourself from the rest of "society".

I have experienced it many times. I have missed out on probably many things over time. Yet I refuse to be a part of FB and stuff like that. However, I am only one person. The peer pressure probably works on most people, because most are not as informed about FB (and Instagram and whatever else they own) and what it does, as the crowd on HN is for example. That means, that the argument of "no one is forcing anyone" is a bad one, because you would need to add "but they will make your life worse, if you do not join!". It is kind of an extortion, which an uninformed society unknowingly is excerting on the individual, put in motion by dark patterns, privacy-hostility and bad practices on the side of FB.

Then do not defend facebook.


Their business model is poisoning the well of society, and strip-mining its value by breaking the bonds that hold it together.

The very best that can be concluded about it's entire leadership is that they entirely lack any hint of moral compass or sense of responsibility to the society from which they extract their wealth.

The more I observe their behavior, the more it looks like worse conclusions are supported by the data.

Just stop justifying things on technical bases. It is what FB is doing the the top post above

I don't get how you can end up in this line of thought? Can you ask these same questions about the abusers of opioids? Or Tobacco? Don't you have any bad habits you have difficulty shaking off? Genuinely surprised.

I'm only speculating, but if "everyone's on instagram", maybe people don't want to be left out?

They may know that it's bad for you, just as I expect most smokers to know smoking is bad for you.

But the "badness" isn't direct, it grows, and they could think "maybe I'll be able to control it / I can quit whenever I want", whereas if you don't follow current trends (or whatever it is people follow on instagram), you're left out immediately.

Of course, by the time you realize you can't quit, it's already too late.

I just said the same thing ha.

Yeah, it is difficult for people to admit they're at fault.

Blame is justified only when someone is forcing you to do something or keeping you from something.

How about when a person is deceived into doing something? As a general matter, rather in the context of this specific news story.

There's an old joke: When you owe the bank a million dollars, it's your problem. When you owe them a billion dollars, it's their problem. (these numbers likely need adjustment for inflation...)

If FB/Instagram use is damaging a substantial percentage of your population, it's your problem, regardless of whatever moral frame you decide to put around it.

The difference is scope. On a personal level, yes, individuals should stop using Instagram if it's harming them. When we're discussing systems thinking and trying to understand trends that affect entire states, entire nations, or the whole world, we look at the impact of systemic interventions.

Unless telling people to take responsibility for themselves is an effective systemic intervention (it might be!) then it's not very useful, except as a PR strategy to deflect blame from Facebook.

> From the article it seems that young girls know about the toxicity in the application, why they keep using it?

This is a disheartening take.

Yeah why do smokers keep smoking?

In order to answer this question, we would have to see how the social pressure materializes when people leave the network.

For instance, I'm not sure becoming a social outcast is great for anxiety and depression issues.

>It's like every time there is a problem, the cause is someone/something else.

And every time somebody else must do something about it in a way that affects everybody.

Socialize the dutys, privatize the rights

Normal means that there is a bell-curve distribution of how insecure individuals would be; you'll see both more and less self-confident individuals. However, if you barrage the populace with photoshopped, top 1% in beauty, frankly unhealthy bodies, that distribution is going to move to the "right" towards more insecurity. I'd wager anyone susceptible to insecurity would experience a much greater level, than in a poor farming town where young people see almost no sexualized supermodels or celebrities to compare themselves to.

For example, take some 13 year old girl, probably a poor farmer, from Ireland in 1800. She will have seen almost no examples of the female body except her own, her peers rarely, and her familial elders. Then plop her down into today's world, and she'll definitely be barraged by all the most ridiculous images of flat stomachs, huge anatomical parts and tiny anatomical parts, immaculately photoshopped forms: she'll be made to feel less than them.

Not just images? Drop her in LA. I fear for a remarkable young talent I won't name.

I think these social media platforms give teenagers the feeling, that everyone is pretty and successful. Back in the days, only famous people where in fashion magazines. They where an elite group of people one could easily distinguish from. But nowadays, there are so many "noname" persons out there, having a successful instagram feed. This could create the impression that all people out there are good looking and successful, except yourself.

Yeah, that's exactly true. It's cargo culting. Super models are beautiful and popular, so if I pay for a photo shoot I am also beautiful and popular seems to be the logic of many "influencers".

Very well said, I totally agree

> 1. I remember that while growing up fashion magazines, actors/actresses and I want to say peer pressure (but am fearful its incorrect) were a big source of body image issues.

I remember reading somewhere, can't remember where, something that addressed this point.

Broadly speaking, the idea was that "people in magazines" weren't perceived as "peers", so you wouldn't compare yourself to them in the same way as you'd compare with a classmate, or some other "regular person", "just like yourself".

To me this sounds like post hoc reasoning to justify the conclusion you already want to make. There doesn't appear to be any real correlation between the introduction of Instagram and suicide rates for girls. Suicide rates are up, but it's for both boys and girls and the beginning of the increase predated Instagram.

Instagram is an easy target like Video games, TV, Cell Phones, and Internet were before it. But like those things I don't think there's much causation going on.

Johnathan Haight discusses noticable differences in college students (measurable by mental health services) precisely in the years when students who all had cell phones early [in middle school?] started to enter.

Magazines came once a month, the people in them were clearly supposed to be uncommonly attractive and they couldn't talk back to you.

Wow, this is such a thoughtful post. I really drummed my fingers thinking of something witty to reply.

About #1: From my childhood experience, this is accurate. Youth fashion magazines and network TV from 7PM to 10PM played and outsized role to influence our (small) world view. However, I find it interesting that as social media has exploded, there is parellel movement to reduce digital post processing on models photographs. It is still a moving target, but the trend is less and less processing of photographs in fashion magazines and adverts. (Note: This "commitment" varies wildly by region!)

About #2: This comment is so deep. I remember reading the novel "Orphan Train" a few years ago, and the author spent considerable time pulling you into the world within which these young people lived. Granted, the events occur about 100 years ago, but they help us the understand the pressures of youth from four generations ago. By the end, you felt like a movie director, peering into their fractured lives. Generally speaking, I think about a "generation" as being 25 years. If we look back 100 years, someone born in 1921, then each 25 years is a new generation. Assuming these people lived in relatively free and prosperous places... I dunno, pick Belgium or Argentina or Australia... each 25 years, children's lives would be hugely different than their parents due to major social advances, improved education, and new media outlets. In my generation, one of the biggest concerns was "peer pressure" and "too much TV or video games". Some of that still exists, but it has morphed more towards bullying (including early-age homophobia and transphobia) and too much Internet / social media. An exciting question: What comes after this generation? Too much AR / VR!?


It's definitely normal to blame everything and everyone but yourself for your problems.

In some cases, it's justified, but the vast majority of time it's just avoiding responsibility.

On an individual level, it makes sense to talk about personal responsibility.

However, if you are looking at a large percentage of people experiencing something, it isn't helpful to just say all those people need personal responsibility. You can point to individual failings when you talk about an individual, but if 75% of people are having individual failings it is symptomatic of something structural.

Yeah, human condition.

We're apes that compete for status to attract mates.

There's always going to be some of this kind of thing in everything. I'd accept the concentration of it in social media (TikTok is probably the worst of them) is not healthy, but the issues themselves are independent of the medium of the time imo.

This shows how a statement can be factually true and completely disingenuous at the same time.

Yes 1/3 are effected badly but we just say that it can have positive effects. Just omitting the fact that it often has a detrimental effect…

Yes, a nuclear bomb explosion can be bad, but there is a case where someone had a tree knocked down that they were going to have to pay to get cut down, so nuclear bombs can have positive effects!

Just read that 1946 New Yorker article on the first bombing that made HNs front page a week back. This passage is probably the one Zuckerberg would use:

> Over everything—up through the wreckage of the city, in gutters, along the riverbanks, tangled among tiles and tin roofing, climbing on charred tree trunks—was a blanket of fresh, vivid, lush, optimistic green; the verdancy rose even from the foundations of ruined houses. Weeds already hid the ashes, and wild flowers were in bloom among the city’s bones. The bomb had not only left the underground organs of plants intact; it had stimulated them. Everywhere were bluets and Spanish bayonets, goosefoot, morning glories and day lilies, the hairy-fruited bean, purslane and clotbur and sesame and panic grass and feverfew. Especially in a circle at the center, sickle senna grew in extraordinary regeneration, not only standing among the charred remnants of the same plant but pushing up in new places, among bricks and through cracks in the asphalt. It actually seemed as if a load of sickle-senna seed had been dropped along with the bomb.

Never mind that the rest of the article will probably elicit a few spontaneous sobs from an empathetic reader.

This is also disingenuous, since they could've gotten the tree cut down without the nuke and so the nuke has no "exclusive" positive value. Social networks have some positive value that is exclusive to them, like the ability for people to connect with friends as well as diverse groups of strangers - both things that would otherwise be much harder if not impossible for many.

Exclusive to social networks... And restaurants, bars, parks, meetup groups, local events, email lists, chat servers (eg Discord), and generally taking the time to meet your friends and family in person rather than on the web.

It's only "much harder if not impossible" for lack of trying. And while yes, there are some out there that simply don't have such options, we also have people that need to cut down a tree but can't afford the work, and so simply hope it won't fall on their house the next time it gets windy.

Because in reality, all friends and family totally live withing reasonable travel distance of each other and interesting people will always pop into your local bar at the exact time you're there and wear a shirt outlining why you should spend your time trying to meet them as opposed to literally anyone else in the bar.

Email lists and chat servers are just Facebook with extra steps. The only difference ends up being the fact that Facebook-like social networks suggest you people and content you might like from a giant pool, whereas the alternatives have rather limited pools and the signal to noise ratio is pathetic because you get literally everything that is posted and have to filter through it manually.

Don't get me wrong, I hate Facebook and only use it on maybe a handful of occasions per year, but you can't tell me that it didn't enable things that weren't possible for many before it was invented.

Usenet, IRC, Forums all connected friends and diverse groups over the internet before "social media", and IMO they did not have the same negative effects because they did not "gamify" the system with a reward feedback loop like the current social media systems do

None of them had nearly the same reach and discoverability as Facebook does. Good luck finding your childhood friend whose name you barely remember through thousands of web forums with primarily pseudonymous users. Meanwhile, Facebook's recommendation engine will just throw their name at you out of nowhere.

Not true. I was an army brat. It finds nobody in my childhood even though I've tried.

People would have a better chance of finding me via one of my various pseudonym's online than they would by my IRL name.

I do not have any accounts in my real name, and I had no problems finding others via our pseudonym's when I wanted to share them with people in the physical world.

You state that these qualities are exclusive to social networks in the same sentence where you say that other means could be used but are much harder. So… not exclusive?

"Travel to Australia is possible exclusively by plane or boat" is a sentence very few people would have a problem with, although you could also technically and with great effort get there by swimming, blimp or hanging from a million helium baloons and hoping the wind blows the right way.

In all discussions I've heard that mention "exclusive value" or a similar concept, the agreed-upon definition was always something like "where all others are orders of magnitude worse".

It sounds like this is part of the point you're making, but this sort of statement should only be considered a lie. Some philosophers might correctly call this "bullshit," however colloquially it's the same as a lie: it intends to deceive.

Honestly, though, when did 'technically correct' become the baseline for messaging? If you say what's 'technically correct' even if you ignore the entire mountain of steaming horse shit right behind it, you get a pass anymore.

Why? Why is this socially acceptable? Is this different from the past, or are we just more aware of it?

First, it's possible to do worse and be factually incorrect. This was, and still is, common.

Second, it's possible to objective demonstrate whether a factual statement is correct or not. But whether a statement is disingenuous or misleading cannot be proven with the same level of certainty (absent evidence of intent). So bad-faith actors can always guarantee that disputing that contention will end in an "agree to disagree" draw at worst.

Whenever I hear people say "technically correct is the best kind of correct", I inform them that that's technically incorrect.

It isn't different from the past; see tobacco

It was. I was so disgusted with how this way of saying “technically true” things is used and accepted. As the other comment stated.

They are "bending the truth" which is per definition "to say something that is not true or that misleads people but that is usually not regarded as a serious or harmful lie"...

A 2/3rds truth

Yup, if a gang of 7 beats and robs somebody; you can accurately say 7 out of 8 people improved their situation.

Sorry for hijacking this thread, but whoever posted this information in an internal message board was keen on finding a method to force the company to act on this. Was it the right thing to do? Yes. Was it meant to be leaked? 100%.

Running a company in today's environment feels very different than 20 years ago, and to make it clear - it's better for the world this way. Any employee - no matter how low or high ranking - has the ability to erase a significant amount of enterprise value from any business, no matter how large or small. This is driven by improved moral standards, but also extreme connectivity that we have in terms of obtaining information internally (slack, notion, google drive and thousands of other software solutions that have increased everyone's access to documents) and sharing it with the outside world (social media, easy access to journalists, readers' interest in holding companies accountable).

I would be surprised if we don't experience some type of a push back from the companies. At the very least, I imagine access to info will be reduced (already happened at Google), and also that we'll increasingly start seeing new ways of how employees are connected with each other (both in terms of policy as well as actual barriers that will prohibit anyone from reaching too many people). I imagine that companies will also start researching new candidates' propensity for activism by analyzing their social media content. For example, if you post "tax the rich!" on Facebook, I imagine that in the not so distant future that will have a negative impact on your market value.

If there's one thing that I've learned, it's that every action triggers a reaction (which is time-delayed in the sense that it arrives late and also overshoots the original target), and the constant yo-yoing between those two forces is what explains much of the irrational behavior in the world.

>I would be surprised if we don't experience some type of a push back from the companies.

One thing could be to hire fewer people. Oddly large software companies is an evergreen topic on HN. Every middle manager wants to empire-build, but if each new hire is a potential leak, then that could be a brake on Google's relentless goal of hitting 1M employees by 2030: https://image.cnbcfm.com/api/v1/image/106318886-157800431271...

The biggest response I've seen in my life is using the telephone to share potentially damaging information instead of putting it in writing.

At some point I just wish Zuckerberg would give one single fuck.

I often think of Facebook/Zuckerberg as the perfect example of why having a mission statement (something something connecting all the people) that seems perfectly non-controversial in a vacuum, often leads to a willing delusion that this must mean it's always a good thing and justifies any means.

They reach a point where they're fundamentally unable to honestly ask themselves whether their "good thing" is actually good. I have a fairly respectable social graph on Facebook and Twitter, but far fewer actual friends than I did in the pre-social network days. A row in a database isn't connection, and it isn't good.

This is a very interesting point. As someone who wants to start an organization with a very strong mission statement, it brings a sense of caution.

Is it the mission statement itself which is dangerous? Or is it possible to come up with a "good" one?

It's the investor-profit-driven corporation which is dangerous. There isn't a powerful mission statement that will change the fact that corporations serve their investors above all else and the mission statement is almost entirely meaningless.

I hear you.

That is not entirely true. Amazon was founded on a mission of serving its customers, and the belief that serving customers well is the best way to maximize long-term shareholder value (among other values).


> It’s All About the Long Term

> We believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term. This value will be a direct result of our ability to extend and solidify our current market leadership position.

> The stronger our market leadership, the more powerful our economic model. Market leadership can translate directly to higher revenue, higher profitability, greater capital velocity, and correspondingly stronger returns on invested capital.

> Our decisions have consistently reflected this focus. We first measure ourselves in terms of the metrics most indicative of our market leadership: customer and revenue growth, the degree to which our customers continue to purchase from us on a repeat basis, and the strength of our brand. We have invested and will continue to invest aggressively to expand and leverage our customer base, brand, and infrastructure as we move to establish an enduring franchise.

> Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies. Accordingly, we want to share with you our fundamental management and decision-making approach so that you, our shareholders, may confirm that it is consistent with your investment philosophy: (...)

You don't have to operate your company in a way that makes your shareholders maximum profit from quarter to quarter. You do have a responsibility to them, but that responsibility can be met by following your mission statement. If you believe your company should only (e.g.) use sustainable energy sources because it's important for the planet, or that you're going to invest for long term growth, not short term profit, you can disclose that to your shareholders and meet your obligations. Company directors have considerable leeway in the way in which they meet their fiduciary responsibilities, and the idea people have that companies "must maximize profit at all cost" is incorrect.

Now, if your company is failing, the stock is falling, products failing in the market, then your shareholders may pressure for a variety of things: a change in mission, direction, the resignation of leaders; or they may buy enough of the company to own enough board seats to take control and out and replace current leadership. But if you're successful at executing on your mission and have investors who are onboard with it, and you're also making money (or growing, which is just as good or better), then you don't need to worry about that.

If your goal does not include making money for shareholders at any point, then you probably shouldn't organize as a for-profit corporation, though.

IMHO, there's nothing inherently wrong with having a mission statement.

The fix here is that you must balance that mission statement with a well-defined set of Values as well. The mission is what you want to accomplish in the world, and the Values are the principles you plan to adhere to while doing so. The values can't just be some afterthought "check the box" exercise - they have to have significant decision-making weight in practice.

A set of (imperfect, I'm sure!) examples from the Wikimedia Foundation:

Mission: https://wikimediafoundation.org/about/mission/ Values: https://wikimediafoundation.org/about/values/

A mission statement doesn't encode all of human ethics in it, it's just a single sentence. Any mission statement could be bad if taken to the extreme. A super-Facebook that told you the thoughts of every person in real time, a super-Google that could fetch any knowledge, including credit card numbers, etc etc. https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/4ARaTpNX62uaL86j6/the-hidden...

Have a mission statement, just don't go crazy with it.

Mission statement: WWJD

(I was joking with the comment, but I'm not so sure now.)

What would jeffrey dahmer do?

Michael Hyatt in his "Vision driven leader" book makes a good distinction between vision an mission, which I think is helpful to you. I recommend you read the book, it is right on your avenue.

It's on Audible. I'll give it a listen. Thanks!

The example of V'ger comes to mind.

I think it's that the worst of us usually come out "ahead".

Because underhanded tactics are winning tactics.

Facebook will collapse the same way Lehmann and the Afghan army did. Just a few more nudges. And it all falls down.

Why do you believe this?

Mark’s use of the word “can” is what makes it technically not perjury.

It's also why he looked like he was taking a shower the whole time. He knew he was lying through his teeth but he had to ensure he used wording that would make his statements technically accurate. I'm guessing he spent a month with his lawyers preparing what words he could and couldn't use in his responses.

And Frosted Sugar Bombs can be part of a nutritious breakfast.

This is too accurate. My baby just turned 1 and I'm finally realizing how much sugar is in toddler food.

"I won't eat any cereal that doesn't turn the milk purple."

I like a bowl of Frosted Sugar Bombs along with an egg white omelet and fat free no-sugar yogurt :-)

On the other hand, teens blaming Instagram does not mean Instagram actually has that effect.

there was this absolutely devastating graphic about rising suicide rates of teen girls which coincided with mobiles and especially instagram. Sorry can't find it right now.

The cdc [1] has some figures that show a remarkably clear trend upward after ~2007. But IIRC it's pretty even across gender.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db352-h.pdf

thanks for picking up my slack. Another CDC study/poll is shows even worse data than I imagined[1]: e.g. ~8% of high schoolers try to kill themselves every year (I know, sounds unbelievable. Please, everyone, check yourself and correct me if possible). The numbers for girls are higher than for boys but the rises over the years (and the influence through instagram) not necessarily, see the diagrams.


There's rising competitiveness for everything else, not just body issues.


This was interesting:

> students who reported having sex with persons of the same sex or with both sexes (30.3%); and students who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (23.4%)

Assuming that most people who have sex with others of the same sex do so because they are gay (rather than e.g. because they are experimenting), this indicates that people who are in denial about being gay are more prone to suicide.

Facebook might be asking girls where their body image issues came from, but boys/men are not much different.

It's reasonable that if one gender is developing self esteem issue from a social network, then the other gender _probably_ is too.

I wonder, though, if body image issues tend to manifest differently in boys and girls. I suspect that we're somewhat better at spotting girls' issues than we are at boys'.

No one cares about the boy issues and while maturing they find out about it very quick.

So, around the same time as the Great Recession?

If we're going to correlate, we can do it with with obesity as well.

In 2018 "obesity prevalence was [...] 21.2% among 12- to 19-year-olds." [0] according to the CDC. That's one out of 5 being obese, not overweight. And it has more than tripled since the 70's [1].

And then we start blaming the "evil screens" for people not finding themselves attractive.

[0] https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity_child_15_16/obe...

Correlation isn't causation, society is shifting massively, regardless of Facebook and Instagram.

Good point. Let's do an experiment and shut down Facebook altogether, and see if things improve.

Move fast and break Zuckerberg!

you don't think people can identify something that hurts them?

I'm not on any side in this particular argument, but there are thousands of things we do/eat/experience every day which hurt us and we have no idea.

this clearly meets the threshold, though. i don't know a single person who has used social media that considers it not-harmful overall, mostly it's a justified use of "i need it for x so i have to put up with the downsides"

it just seems really silly to me to walk into this thread about how Facebook internally believes they're doing harm, and reply to a statement about how the harmed demographic feels they're being harmed, in the context of well-documented ways that harm occurs and what kind of effects it has, with a statement doubting the harm actually exists and questioning the self-reported experience of harm

The long term, creeping effects of medium (not very heavy) air pollution are incredible. They sneak up on you so slowly, few rational people can understand when it begins to affect your health in measurable ways.

People can identify things hurting them, but not always correctly. But people also can blame personal failings on external sources easily as well.

It’s like asking why studies using self-reported survey numbers on penis sizes cannot be treated as the ultimate truth, despite adults surely being able to use a measurement tape or a ruler. There is a reason for why the average numbers on all those studies using self-reported numbers are always at least one standard deviation larger than the average numbers obtained from a study that wasn’t just a self-reported survey.

I find it interesting that Instagram promoting celebrity culture has provoked such a backlash but the Chinese governments attempts to tackle the same on their streaming platforms is seen as misguided.

This is pretty much how something like a JD Power survey works, they find the one thing that you might be number 1 at and promote it - while ignoring anything that could detract. That one thing might be true but it does not change or eliminate other things.

Just like smoking cigarettes can have the positive side-effect of reducing your chance of catching covid!

1/3, if confirmed, is sadly insane

Is it Facebook / Instagram's fault or us as a culture? As a culture we adore beauty, wealth, power...Facebook seems to be just a platform where our natural desires can have a play. Facebook hasn't created this impossible beauty ideal, it was created long long ago by Hollywood and the fashion industry. Facebook just makes it super easy for people to become obsessed with something by "connecting" with it. It used to be that 40 years ago you watched some supermodel in a commercial for 20 seconds and she was gone. The novelty with the internet is that now you can follow this supermodel and get dozens of alerts a week about her. If it's not Facebook it's gonna be TikTok or something other platform.

It's their fault. An individual girl in 1995 who was concerned with her looks had at most a couple dozen people in her life to judge her. In 2021 it's hundreds of millions, and a large portion are more than happy to spout things they would NEVER say in real life.

Does society value beauty? Sure. Do models set "unrealistic expectations"? Sure. Are some high school girls assholes to other girls? Absolutely. But once upon a time kids would go home and those people would be gone. Now it's a 24/7 feedback loop and it's completely unhealthy.

> and a large portion are more than happy to spout things they would NEVER say in real life

This is pretty much an internet problem, not a Facebook problem. The things people say to each other on forums or Twitter or Facebook, especially when anonymous (but not always), are quite often horrendous.

Doesn't facebook & co design their service to be addictive, or, erm, "maximize engagement"? The internet is fine, as I see it, it's ad-revenue based social media that's the problem.

It's absurd to absolve a company as wealthy as facebook who optimizes for "engagement" from their externalities on children.

> Doesn't facebook & co design their service to be addictive, or, erm, "maximize engagement"?

Is there something on the internet that isn't designed as such?

Maybe weather apps... Everything else, from wikipedia to github to stackoverflow to the site you're on now is yet another automated massively multiplayer kudo ranking system. The only meaningful difference appears to be demographic; Facebook is one of the places 'teen girls' spend their time. All I see here is evidence that clicks can still be had by ascribing some concern to the fate of young women[1].


Wikipedia, Github and Stackoverflow don't really have a "feed" much less a opaque, hidden algorithm to induce addictive behavior behind the feed. They don't press you into the app and then send you frequent push notifications.

Gamification is benign compared to an interactive news feed developed to drive ad sales. I find pointing at especially wikipedia, but also github as being designed to maximize engagement comparable to social networks as silly. Neither has much to gain from having addicted users, the same can't be said for facebook, IG, or Reddit.

> Wikipedia, Github and Stackoverflow don't really have a "feed"

All three have various feed mechanisms. They all have various ranking systems. Every one of them have people employed (even if mere 'volunteers') to 'maximize engagement.' And every one of these systems have people obsessed with their profile. Every. Single. One.

They're just mostly not 'teen girls' and so the 'problem' makes for poor headline material.

"especially wikipedia"

Wikipedia is rife with obsessed 'editors' climbing the rungs of the interweb status ladder. They're easy to find. Look at their profile pages; filled with achievement badges (gamification) and vast profiles of their lives. Does Facebook have 'campaigns' for 'elections' that grant power on the platform? I honestly don't know because I spend no time there, but I know Wikipedia does, and we can only imagine the anxiety involved for these 'candidates.' Thankfully though, they're mostly not 'teen girls' so we're not going to worry about them.

I think this is just a red herring for the main discussion here. Of course that example is also terrible! Just because this discussion is about Instagram doesn’t mean we don’t care about anything else.

Speaking to your point more directly, the massive, massive difference is the primary user of Instagram and typical social media vs the primary user of these other platforms. The primary user of Instagram is shown addictive feeds non-stop. It’s really not possible or enjoyable to use Instagram without interacting with designs deliberately and literally trying to get you addicted to the platform. This isn’t true for something like Wikipedia or Stack Overflow. The primary user is going to come across a few articles now and then or search something. But they are rarely going to be interacting with an algorithm or design trying to get you addicted for hours a day.

Think about it like gambling. The only way to use Instagram or Tiktok or Facebook or anything like that is by pulling the lever on a slot machine, trying to get a dopamine hit.

The inherent design and purpose of social media platforms is to addict people so they spend as much time on the platform as possible, and then show them ads. That’s not true for Wikipedia or stack overflow. Those examples are more about policies that encourage toxic behavior or just crappy people on the internet, not a critique of the inherent platform design.

I agree with the points made here but if addiction or useless products is the problem we will have to disallow Netflix to teenagers and gaming as well. It's not clear to me we as a society are capable of doing that. Not only that, probably the whole pop culture and increased individualism is contributing to increased unhappiness. Facebook is just a symptom of a disease in our culture. Dismantling Facebook will do very little to help kids I think. I actually think the Chinese got it right (banning gaming to teenagers above 3 hours per week or something like that), but we don't operate like that.

We've had subscription media for a while now and it's shown that that business model has it's glaring weaknesses as well, especially when it comes to ideological pandering

yes, they do.

True, and the cat can't be put back in the bag, so it's up to the collective "us", who build the Internet, to rediscover our moral imperative to fix what's broken... and Facebook is a huge chunk of this brokenness.

I personally deleted my account but what is it about Facebook that is worse than say Twitter (also deleted) ? Twitter was a big bag of toxicity. Not saying it wasn't interested, tons of interesting people to follow; but the discussions were often rude, racist and hateful. And it poses the same problem of teens following supermodels and what not. What I'm saying is this is about social media in general, not about Facebook which just happens to be the (currently) number 1 platform.

That is not what the data researchers currently employed by Facebook said, if you read the article.

"They came to the conclusion that some of the problems were specific to Instagram, and not social media more broadly. That is especially true concerning so-called social comparison, which is when people assess their own value in relation to the attractiveness, wealth and success of others."

"'Social comparison is worse on Instagram,' states Facebook's deep dive into teen girl body-image issues in 2020, noting that TikTok, a short-video app, is grounded in performance, while users on Snapchat, a rival photo and video-sharing app, are sheltered by jokey filters that 'keep the focus on the face.' In contrast, Instagram focuses heavily on the body and lifestyle."

So I suspect that their understanding of the problem is better than yours, and that there is something about Instagram that makes it worse than generic social media.

Twitter is not algorithmically pushing supermodel photos to teenage girls. The target demographics are completely different from Instagram.

You are correct however, that Twitter is also toxic; like all social media.

The more basic issue seems to be that (many) people are toxic. If not always, to everyone, at least some of the time, towards some other people.

The problem with social media, then, is that it allows -- indeed encourages, because "engagement" -- all that toxicity to spread so much more widely and rapidly than ever before.

We could argue about "general/basic problems" all day.

This post is about FB suppressing their own research, which showed that Instagram and its algorithm are toxic to teenage girls.

> We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,”

> Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,”

> “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

You're assuming people have morals to appeal to - most don't. When everyone is connected to everyone else the asshole always prevail. The solution is to sever the connections.

One would dare say that an overwhelming majority of people does have morals.

But a very small minority that doesn't have morals, is causing the illusion that it's most people that don't have them.

As individuals, maybe, but as a society I have a hard time seeing proof when there is normalized wage slavery, the animal industrial complex, and any industry with money or power is deeply corrupted.

Right now we have a large percentage of people that refuse to get a vaccine to protect their neighbors.

Everyone might have morals, but the bar is low.

Other people not sharing your values is not the same as them not having morals at all.

[citation needed]

I don't know many such morally-absent folks. Perhaps the perverse incentives in our system mean a bunch of CEOs are quite sociopathic, but on the whole, people seem rather good intentioned to me. The internet certainly serves as a platform for many that would be otherwise shunned IRL, but I don't think they're the general majority...just the majority that decide to voice their opinions. The rest aren't even paying attention - only a small fraction of people have a Twitter account, for example.

Even reddit, which can be anonymous, is filled with good discourse, assuming you avoid certain subreddits, and sort by top. Moderation goes a long way to mimicking our more natural IRL tendencies to turn down the assholes. Twitter and Instagram generally lack those tools, so the assholes can be louder and _seem_ more prominent than they are.

This is true but the companies choose how to build and operate these spaces, which includes things like moderation and what they promote. Part of what makes Facebook important here is that they’ve put so much effort into taking over people’s socialization everywhere with an emphasis on being where your friends and family are. The more toxic parts of the Internet used to be different places you had to seek out.

Given how profitable that’s been it seems reasonable to expect them to be involved in fixing it.

Guess those geniuses earning massive salaries are too dumb to figure out ways to counteract this effect ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Or they’re paid massive salaries not to do that.

Facebook is the business that enables this problem on their platform. This problem could disappear overnight if Facebook decided to moderate their platform. Facebook chooses profitability over a safe platform for their users. This is where regulatory bodies should step in.

And yes we need regulatory help. Tens of millions in this country are experiencing mental health issues as a result of these platforms. When we understood that other industries were causing a health crisis we regulated them, the same needs to occur here.

Note. I don't know what the regulatory solution should be, but we should be having that discussion.

> It's their fault. An individual girl in 1995 who was concerned with her looks had at most a couple dozen people in her life to judge her. In 2021 it's hundreds of millions, and a large portion are more than happy to spout things they would NEVER say in real life.

I agree with the 2nd part of your comment. But this part is just dishonest, and sounds like a startup pitch about addressable market. Do you honestly believe that each teen girl is being followed by hundreds of millions, who comment on every single photo of her? Almost everyone still lives in their social bubbles, and yes, it's easier to to communicate and say mean things to each other (totally 24/7 feedback loop), but they almost exclusively come from people you know, not hundreds of millions of internet randos.

While that is true, many people (especially teenagers) curate their Instagram page as if they had tons of followers. That doesn't come with the downsides that actually having many followers does (hateful comments, etc.), but it certainly fosters a stressful mindset where every posts success is closely monitored and the content is carefully chosen to achieve as much growth as possible.

Doesn't matter if it reaches 10 or 10000 people.

Good point, it got me thinking about what a young person (or someone who has yet to make an impact in society) might obsess over on Instagram. Changed my mind about why this matters to people in my demographic.

> An individual girl in 1995 who was concerned with her looks had at most a couple dozen people in her life to judge her

An individual girl in 1995 had enough shows on TV and enough magazines to tell her she is not looking good.

Yeah, but people have a certain level of disconnect with the models, athletes, actors, and superstars you see on TV and in magazines. Facebook brings that to the next level by encouraging that sort of content from people who you can actually relate to and feeds it to you around the clock. IG is especially bad about this.

And that's just some of the content. The algorithm is also just as happy to feed you a continuous stream of outraging, extremist "punditry", manufactured drama, fake "crafting" videos, conspiracies, and paranoid, depressing "news" - anything to keep you engaged.

> Yeah, but people have a certain level of disconnect with the models, athletes, actors, and superstars you see on TV and in magazines.

I'm not really sure about it. When highschool girls wore the same clothes the Spice Girls wore, had the same haircut they had and replicated their dances, for me that's a lot of connection.

I'm sure Facebook/Instagram have a lot to be blamed for but we (not just young girls; parents, teachers, etc) need to be responsible of our actions to some degree.

The judging of other people towards these girls isn't nearly as toxic as them having a poor body image because of all the beautiful people they see online.

Those girls in 1995 got their media fix through magazines geared at women and teenaged girls, where they'd find an impossibly thin model on every other page. The Kardashians wouldn't have been well-received in the 90s, because all of them would have been considered fat by those standards.

Yes, but on flipside said girl now can and fully expects to be courted by best boys well outside of 1995 logistic reach.

>Yes, but on flipside said girl now can and fully expects to be courted by best boys well outside of 1995 logistic reach.

I honestly can't tell if you're joking or not, but study after study has shown that dating was far more mentally healthy in 1995 than it is today. Online dating falls into almost the exact same category of causing anxiety and making it more difficult for younger generations to form meaningful relationships - just like instagram and facebook.

I think GP is conflating an issue with online dating and the psychology of beauty. Basically, men in online dating on average get very low numbers of matches while women on average get a ton. It's a numbers game, the apps know it, and that's why they have upgrades to buy visibility etc...

It's a genuine problem, in that it is fully exploitative of men, but not related to this imo.

...far more...

Please reflect on the circumstances in your life that lead you to this belief. In my experience this is a very toxic viewpoint and couldn't be further from the truth.

If anything I'd argue that more than ever both women and men are searching for authenticity in a partner. Something increasingly difficult to come by in our social media fueled world.

Sure, there is a subset on both sides that has been completely sucked in by this culture and measures each others worth by the number of followers on their instagram, but I'd actually view this as a positive. It's really convenient to be able to identify and filter out these vain individuals early on in the dating process.

Keep your head up nodejs_rulez_1, there are still plenty of good women and men out there.

I don't believe that is a toxic belief. Or even a belief at all. It's just human psychology.

Simply put, any man or woman with a lot of choices would be less invested in any of the options presented.

Because the overall process, despite being more efficient as measured by outcome, does not lead to as many fulfilling experiences as before.

Oh for sure. Seems to widely known that the more choices you have, the less happy you become.

You say this like it's some kind of benefit to the girl in question... IMO seems far more likely to lead to increased harassment and negative outcomes, rather than being a positive.


Also for all of the women I've seen flown out from Alabama, Mississippi, etc to NY, LA & Miami by the more affluent men in my social circles, I haven't seen a single long term relationship develop out of it. The wider net isn't leading to better outcomes.

Wouldn't it be great if we could use the power of technology to then have one but not the other?

this. And then be bullied by even more people outside said reach

The 24/7 thing is mostly the fault of the user’s usage habits and their notification settings.

"As a culture we adore beauty, wealth, power.."

Species, not culture.

The evolutionary explanations for such are not hard to come up with just with a bit of thought, and not hard to confirm in the literature either. Which also means the species isn't about to stop admiring those things any time soon.

Which means, rather than the "boil the ocean, then boil it a few more times again" plan of trying to somehow "fix" the species not to admire those things, one needs to pursue a plan of figuring out how to live within the existing constraints.

Which takes you right back to old idea of one's rationality being a small human trying to corral the crazy elephant that it is riding to go where we want it to go. The trick is to learn how to prevent the crazy elephant from even seeing the undesirable stimuli, rather than trying to deal with what happens if it does after the fact.

Unfortunately, explaining that to teenagers is a tough sell, especially when the alternative is tuning you out and going back to the highly-addictive social media.... even explaining it to adults can be a tough sell.

this is a much more compelling and eloquent way of saying "go touch grass"

Extremist conduct keeps people engaged longer, so they see more ads.

Facebook/YouTube/Twitter all exploit the dark side of human nature. They've been doing it for so many years, that it's difficult to imagine that it's unintentional.

>in Google’s effort to keep people on its video platform as long as possible, “its algorithm seems to have concluded that people are drawn to content that is more extreme than what they started with—or to incendiary content in general,” and adds, “It is also possible that YouTube’s recommender algorithm has a bias toward inflammatory content.”


These companies are always going to want to hold our attention but it's us at the end of the day who decide to give them our attention. I think as a society we need to prove that we are smarter than these companies and are capable of discipline and self-control.

In corporate america, it's hard for me to see any private owned corporation doing what's in best interest for the public versus their own pockets.

> I think as a society we need to prove that we are smarter than these companies and are capable of discipline and self-control.

Kind of like how we said that the answer to alcohol & tobacco was to show self-control, not restrict sales and advertising? Expecting people to go one on one against enormous companies’ profit motives is a recipe for failures.

Or walk into a casino and look at the people pouring their savings into addictive slot machines. It's kind of eerie how modern slot machines actually appear to be converging with mobile games in many ways.




Expecting draconian regulations on social media to work is a recipe for failure. How many billions wasted on the war on drugs? People are always going to want to view extremist content, see beautiful people that cause body image issues, etc.

If people didn't want to see it, they wouldn't click on it. Banning it or regulating it is not going to change that, it's just going to cause it to shift elsewhere. It's human nature.

> Expecting draconian regulations on social media to work is a recipe for failure.

Regulations come in flavors other than draconian. Do you have a specific policy proposal which you're referring to? Otherwise it seems somewhat disingenuous to predict the failure of something which we don't even have enough detail to discuss.

War on drugs is not an appropriate analogy here. A better analogy would be a known addictive, but legal, product being subject to tighter regulation to reduce its overall appeal and social harm--e.g. tobacco.

Except that this is not alcohol or tobacco, this is a digitized version of a free attention grabbing tabloid customized to the person's "interests" is always available to view at their desire. To me this makes it difficult to regulate as it's not purely based on the amount of consumption, it's based on the content you consume.

No, it's not the same as a physical product but there's a growing body of research, supported by some of Facebook's internal commentary, suggesting that it has similarly addictive characteristics, which is why I made that comparison. The point, again, is simple: most people recognize that it will not be optimal to tell everyone that it's their job to ignore a billion-dollar promotional system run by a company which makes more money if they get addicted.

There are some things which you could try regulating: for example, a lot of what drives the dubious aspects comes back to algorithmic promotion maximizing time on site and advertising views. Legislators could ban algorithmic promotion for children, require companies to identify and curb addictive levels of consumption, or require companies to put more effort into moderation on the posts & comments which they promote.

Similarly, I believe at least some countries are exploring requirements to clearly indicate photos which have been modified or retouched.

There are quite a few things to think about here: 1) When do we agree science has actually reached a conclusion about something? Facebook is quite a new phenomenon. Social studies research is notoriously difficult to replicate https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis While it's pretty clear social media has drawbacks, I am not convinced they are materially worse for kids than Netflix or pop culture. 2) Why do we only think about the kids? If we say that social media is more harmful than good - why not ban it altogether? There's this sense that after 18 years old we are all responsible autonomous creatures worthy of maximum freedom but I think that's not based on anything. 3) What happens if we decide to hold everything in our lives to the same yardstick of how good it is to our mental health? I mean social media shouldn't be the exception right? Is watching a violent sadistic show like Games of Thrones good for our mental health? Or watching T.V in general for more than 1 hour a day? How about using Twitter? Or the internet in general? Owning a smartphone? Looking at your smartphone for more than 30 minutes a day? The list of things in our modern lives that have a questionable effect on our mental well-being is enormous.

Cigarettes aren't highly regulated because they are addictive, they are regulated because they literally rot and kill your internal organs.

"Some people feel bad about their bodies after viewing social media" doesn't nearly meet the threshold of measurable harm that tobacco does. And algorithmic promotion can be positive, unlike the universally health-corrosive effects of cigarettes.

That's not the relevant part of the comparison: the point we were talking about is that there are plenty of examples of things where society uses regulation rather than expecting most individuals to make good choices all of the time.

Where the impact of cigarettes is relevant is in the discussion of how _strong_ a particular regulation should be. A deadly threat certainly warrants stricter rules than something minor, just as we do not enforce zoning violations with the death penalty.

If there's a specific policy proposal you could talk about whether you think it'd be effective or overkill but instead you appear to be arguing that there's no need to even consider the range of policy options.

I agree that content consumed by facebook/instagram can be addictive. But I don't think this is unique to them, I think youtube (my personal weakness), netflix, television, video-games and movies all fall into this category. The particular problem with instagram is that it encourages people to post the "highlights" of their life. Therefore people end up consuming a super un-real version of what life is and end up depressed when they compare it to their own. This issue is not a problem of an algorithm or moderation but of one's personal expectations.

There are tons of great examples where algorithmic feed is useful, particularly when your feed is related to activities such as cooking, music and exercise.

In theory I think the concept of forcing the companies to behave a certain way is ideal but I'm still unsure of what type of legislation could be put in place to address the problem in the article.

Yes, I don't think anyone is saying that this is unique to Facebook — they just get the most attention by virtue of popularity and profitability, and having lied about what they knew and when in various related areas. Ignoring the question of the exact effects of all of the political use of social media in the previous decade, that simply happening to the degree it did guaranteed that they'd get a lot more scrutiny.

I definitely agree that there isn't a proven solution for this problem — that's normal for major technological changes. We saw the same thing with printed books, magazines, and newspapers; radio; TV; the internet; etc. — not to mention things like cars which weren't communications technologies but definitely had major impacts on society. I think the best thing we can get right now is more of the data companies like Facebook and Google tend to avoid sharing, especially after various governments experiment with rules and it becomes possible to see what does and doesn't work.

> as a society we need to prove that we are smarter than these companies ...

I agree that this is a test of our society.

> ... and are capable of discipline and self-control

These organizations have enormous resources dedicated to exploiting our frailties and overcoming an individual's discipline and self-control. One option is to continue to expect every man, woman, and child to fight this battle alone in their own head every day.

But we'd probably achieve better results more efficiently by organizing ourselves as well. Then we can combat it collectively as a community and a society like we have done for other human frailties. This would mean things like education, societal pressure, and regulation.

Yes I agree that it's difficult for us to fight individually. I believe we should start informing children about the dangers of the internet once they begin to consume customized feed-based content. I believe parents also have the right to (and should to a certain extent) regulate consumption of their kid's digital media.

>These companies are always going to want to hold our attention but it's us at the end of the day who decide to give them our attention.

These companies are already amplifying content they think will hold our attention, by leaning into people's worst instincts.

>In the fall of 2018, Jonah Peretti, chief executive of online publisher BuzzFeed, emailed a top official at Facebook Inc. The most divisive content that publishers produced was going viral on the platform, he said, creating an incentive to produce more of it.

Mr. Peretti blamed a major overhaul Facebook had given to its News Feed algorithm earlier that year to boost “meaningful social interactions,” or MSI, between friends and family, according to internal Facebook documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal that quote the email.


> I think as a society we need to prove that we are smarter than these companies and are capable of discipline and self-control.

I think it's a losing game.

For as long as big social is allowed to be “free” with its paying customers being advertisers, it will keep benefitting from trolling and other unhealthy behaviours (narcissism?) that happen to drive up engagement and ad revenue. With user lock-in, full control over UI and algorithms at its disposal, big social has way too many tricks up its sleeve for your average tired-after-work-or-school, running-out-of-willpower, vulnerable user to consciously compensate for.

Normalising paid social (forcing interoperability, downgrading platforms to pipes) is probably the most straightforward way for us to finally gain the ability to vote with our wallet and to choose client software crafted with our needs in mind. (I’m not a proponent of regulation bloat or special rules for select big companies; I think a small but strategically focused general requirement could be enough for such a change to happen.)

We aren’t smarter than these companies. They spend billions of dollars and hire top people in their fields to keep us engaged.

The idea that this is just a lack of willpower on our end is total bs

If you read the original article, Facebook employees felt, based on their research, that Instagram was worse for teenage girls than Snapchat or Tik-Tok.

"They came to the conclusion that some of the problems were specific to Instagram, and not social media more broadly. That is especially true concerning so-called social comparison, which is when people assess their own value in relation to the attractiveness, wealth and success of others."

"'Social comparison is worse on Instagram,' states Facebook's deep dive into teen girl body-image issues in 2020, noting that TikTok, a short-video app, is grounded in performance, while users on Snapchat, a rival photo and video-sharing app, are sheltered by jokey filters that 'keep the focus on the face.' In contrast, Instagram focuses heavily on the body and lifestyle."

So maybe they understand the dangers of Instagram better than you do?

If you are the designer of an environment that induces pathologic behavior in people is your fault or theirs?

PS: Where is the people that use to proudly say "with great power comes great responsibility"?

Where are they? Making salaries beyond most people’s imaginations. And many honestly believe that “just” enabling communication and engagement can’t be a bad thing.

I think it's equivalent to the tobacco industry. They didn't invent smoking tobacco but they built it into an industry. Once they were aware of the health effects of smoking was it their fault that they suppressed this information and continued to market their products to more people, including children?

I think this is exactly what should and will happen to social media. We, as a culture, did very well without social media for millenia. The internet was fine without it too.

I think it’s obviously a mix, however, an algorithm that maximizes purely for attention or time on site causes a lot of issues.

Sometimes people are seeking something that is beneficial, and maximizing that is fine. Lots more times, people are mostly responding to angry posts, or falling down a conspiracy rabbit hole that they cannot critically think their way out of. Maximizing the attention of those people is clearly negative.

So does society share some blame? Sure. Does an algorithm that maximizes some people into very bad places share some blame? Absolutely.

I've never really believed it was Hollywood or the fashion industry that created it. People know who's attractive in their circle. You compete with them. The magazines and ads have upped the ante, and facebook turned it into an addiction, but the mechanism was there all along, I think.

The mechanism are also there to prefer sugar and fat to healthier food, to become addicted to nicotine and opiates, and to do many other self-harming things.

That doesn't mean giant corporations should allowed to exploit these mechanisms for profit.

Perhaps, but what would you propose?

Do we take the approach we take with opiates, and ban companies from allowing users to upload images?

Or do we take the approach we take with nicotine, and force companies to disclose the possible harms that can come from social interactions online?

Or is there another approach you'd propose?

Hopefully this doesn't come across too confrontational - I genuinely am curious as to what solutions are viable, and I do recognize the harm social media can cause. But it seems to me that as long as there exists any platform where we can freely post photos, we'll have toxic comparisons, and I don't see more education changing this - I don't think it's a rational choice that we make, to choose to compare ourselves to others.

Of course. If anything, it gives them a greater responsibility (and accountability), because it's such an easy trap.

> it was created long long ago by Hollywood and the fashion industry.

It was created much longer ago than that. We've had beauty standards for as long as humans have created art, and probably for as long as humans have existed. It's probably biological to a large degree, although the manifestation has changed over time. As with many of social media's deleterious effects, they hijack, amplify, and distort our natural inclinations for their own purposes.

> they hijack, amplify, and distort our natural inclinations for their own purposes

Ironically it seems a totalitarian country like China is better equipped to deal with these things (see how they simply banned teens from gaming lately). The liberal democracies number one value is individual freedom; well it works out great most of the time but other times we are not that great ourselves in handling our lives and using our time constructively. Some of us get bored, addicted and obsessed under certain circumstances and I don't actually see an easy solution for that. Maybe social media should be age restricted like porn?

Facebook and social platforms in general are just very efficient in amplifying all these toxic elements of our culture

Yes I think the "social platforms in general" part is key. It's hard to imagine what a social platform would look like that wasn't harmful in this way. Maybe chat apps I suppose, since 1-on-1 interaction is less of a popularity contest.

But anyway, I think the reason that facebook is aware of the problem but doing nothing is not that they are cynically exploiting people, and it's rather that they don't know how to solve it.

> Facebook and social platforms in general are just very efficient in amplifying all these <insert adjective here> elements of our culture

Is it as good at amplifying goodwill towards friends and neighbors as it is at amplifying negative sentiments?

I don't think the former scales, whereas the latter lends itself to amplification. Authenticity and community require much more complexity to uphold than anger, anxiety, and resentment.

I do take your point, and think that un-nuanced conversations about the evils of Social Media are unhelpful, but I think the scaling problem is the real danger. Negativity scales globally, positive sentiment and experience is limited to the individual or local level.

What do you think of any of this?

> Is it as good at amplifying goodwill towards friends and neighbors as it is at amplifying negative sentiments?

Probably, but because of salience asymmetry, we don't realise it. Like the good stuff is often more local as you say, and more distributed, while the bad stuff makes the news.

Yes with that I agree. But we are already toxic, let's not blame Facebook for all our problems. And I just don't see how Twitter, TikTok or anything similar is better; maybe we should just say teens can't be on social media ? Unlikely to pass.

Not all algorithms are created equal. TikTok's for instance seems to be biased to make weirdos find their niche, as opposed to the more binary steamrollers coming from Silicon Valley's monoculture.

> If it's not Facebook it's gonna be TikTok or something other platform.

You are right that there will always be a different “drug” that exposes the same underlying societal issues. But given that FB+Insta are /algorithmically/ pushing these posts to users to increase engagement, it is their problem too.

Every company will push whatever it needs to maximize user attention.They are all out there selling ads to make money, I don't think the other players are different than Facebook.

Please stop with the incessant whataboutism.

Nobody is saying that this is not a general social media problem, just that this article is reporting on FB hiding crucial information.

Quite a few people here argued that Facebook is somehow doing a special evil, so yes people are kinda saying that.

You’re probably confused because you’re speaking quite generally, while most of us here are commenting after reading the article:

> “They came to the conclusion that some of the problems were specific to Instagram, and not social media more broadly. That is especially true concerning so-called social comparison, which is when people assess their own value in relation to the attractiveness, wealth and success of others." "'Social comparison is worse on Instagram,' states Facebook's deep dive into teen girl body-image issues in 2020, noting that TikTok, a short-video app, is grounded in performance, while users on Snapchat, a rival photo and video-sharing app, are sheltered by jokey filters that 'keep the focus on the face.' In contrast, Instagram focuses heavily on the body and lifestyle."

>You’re probably confused because

That's needlessly rude and doesn't add anything to the conversation. Lets try and be nice :) You do have some valid points.

I am not confused, the article is under a paywall so probably lots of people only read the tite, like me. But feel free to skip my comments of course.

You can often get past a paywall by plugging the URL to the paywalled article into the wayback machine. In fact, the top comment (at least in my HN reader) is just an archive link to the article.

Once there are algorithms ranking the posts, they are meddling with the culture.

I kinda agree maybe this can be better regulated but if someone decides to follow Beyonce or Lady Gaga (sorry I'm not really up to date with pop stars) or some supermodel, how are you gonna prevent that? As for algorithm ranking, I suppose 40 years ago it was a "human algorithm" reaching the conclusion that you better have hot chicks drinking coke on commercials, how is that different?

I'm just going to assume you are not a teen girl. And I'm certainly not one so we can just pull things out of our asses. But I don't think that the issue is the pop star or super model any more. It's the influencers and the idea that "anyone" can be top dog now. This means that you have young regular girls following other young "regular" girls. And if you do what they do, use the same products, be as charismatic then you too can be an influencer. Maybe not a global one but at your school. So suddenly you have young girls that "expose" themselves publically for their 62 followers and pretending to be a influencer. Which makes you a very large target for bullying and "harsh truths" that will end your "influencer career" and at the same time that sliver of self esteem that a teenager normally has. And this is 100% caused by having a platform that is "democratic" and allows everyone to "compete for likes on equal terms".

The difference is that Instagram/etc inundate you with nonstop algorithmically “related” posts from every supermodel, not just the ones you chose to follow.

Following a or b is not the problem. Ranking is. As you mentioned, it was already a problem in the times of simple broadcasting, it became an even bigger problem now. Our massive servers will go brrrrr serving algorithms all over the world much faster than we can dream about interveening. The Rohingya crisis stands as a terrifying example.

Though it's an interesting question whether the same culture would develop if the same thing happened again.

Not that it really matters, I don't think either would help you find a fix that doesn't involve destroying the whole thing.

To me, it's obvious that "social" media is extreamly bad for people, and specially extra bad for young people who compare themselves with others a lot.

If we figured too much TV was bad for people, "social" media is 100 times worse. How is it even possible to still feel good about yourself after spending time there? I don't use any of these services because I see them as obviously bad for our mental health.

It might indeed be harmful for teens, or lets say overall unhelpful to them.but there are many examples where Facebook provides useful information, helps people stay in touch with family and friends or even date.

I agree that we need to hold ourselves responsible for our actions. If it's not going to be facebook capitalizing on our behavior, it will be some other company. From the article it seems that most teens are aware that they have an unhealthy relationship with instagram. Tackling this issue in a sustainable way is something I believe most teens are capable of this with the right guidance.

If we should hold ourselves responsible, so should companies.

Tackling this issue in a sustainable way is something I believe most companies are capable of with the right guidance.

Morally I agree with you but the pessimist in me thinks that is unrealistic. I believe facebook is primarily motivated by their earnings. If an unhealthy behavior with instagram leads to more engagement, which means more ad sales, why would facebook interfere dramatically with that recipe? I won't be surprsied if they already A/B tested more "healthy" types of content with their feed and recognized it lead to a dip in engagement.

> If we should hold ourselves responsible, so should companies.

Why "should" FB do so? It is doing the "right thing" for its stake holders. Of course, Ideally they should, but realistically not going to happen.

It is us who need to protect our families because we are incentivized to do so. We have failed in protecting our own interests.

It is no different from the drug dealers in our town, we warn our children of the dangers, take steps within our means to reduce our children's interactions, etc.

Social media is neither good nor bad. It is a tool for communication.

Most users benefit from social media and you can't condemn them for not questioning other aspects.

Nevertheless, it is essential to question the intentions and procedures of the company behind it. I believe that external observers and institutions are required for this to happen and to spread awareness of things running afoul.

However, like so many things, software can be used for good, as well as for evil purposes. The difficult task is to define that boundary without compromising the utility for most users.

Related topics: Games, app stores, default browsers, etc.... How far does the state have to intervene? How much responsible behaviour can be expected from the user themselves?

> Most users benefit from social media

What evidence supports this? The story is about evidence that this is in fact not true.

The software we are talking about is not dropped from the heavens. It is created by extremely large, powerful companies in pursuit of profit. If this software harms people, these companies are not neutral actors merely swept along with the tide of technology.

> How far does the state have to intervene? How much responsible behaviour can be expected from the user themselves?

Surely the most relevant question is how much responsible behavior can be expected from the companies themselves? They are the ones armed with research departments actually studying the effects of how their software affects people.

There are quotes from internal research in the article that Instagram is worse than the alternatives like tiktok. And internal researchers are quoted as saying that this research gets internal pushback because it’s standing between people and their bonuses. Those bonuses aren’t for letting culture play out; they’re for things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. It seems super clear that it’s an Instagram problem.

A great example is the girl who searched for exercise tips once and then her feed was algorithmically focused on weight loss tips and the like afterwards, which is not a cultural issue.

In the 80's people insisted that fashion magazines and beauty pageants were "toxic" for teen girls, for the exact same reasons. Apparently acknowledging that beauty exists is harmful to some people's mental health. Since it's unlikely that we're ever going to convince everybody that there's no such thing as physical beauty, maybe we'd be better off working out ways to help people come to terms with not being at the pinnacle of it while still accepting that there can be and is such a pinnacle.

"As a culture we adore beauty, wealth, power."

Don't you mean "as a species"?

Culture is one of the few tools we have to overcome these natural inclinations. Religion, too.

It would be VERY different if Facebook was not a free, ad-driven service where their sole optimization is engagement. If Facebook was a subscription service where users had 'timelines' (remember that Facebook era?), we would not be seeing the psychological phenomenon we see to this magnitude. Same for Twitter, Insta, TikTok, etc.

As humans we adore beauty and power*


Most issues are human issues. Just because it is a human issue does not make it alright to exploit it at scale with such invasiveness. Especially since they know that is it harmful. Sounds like cigarettes marketed to children. It's not a cigarette company issue it's a human issue after all! We are not liable.

>Is it Facebook / Instagram's fault or us as a culture? As a culture we adore beauty, wealth, power...Facebook seems to be just a platform where our natural desires can have a play

Yes it is Facebook's or Instagram's fault. We are endowed with our natural desires (which are even more fundamentally biological than cultural in this case), that we have no choice over, but we have the choice to remove bad technologies from our societies.

This is in fact the only choice we have. You can't cure people of their desire for power or beauty, but you can destroy the tools that amplify the worst instincts we have.

The medium is the message.

The message of the Web isn't looking so great, all around, I'd say.

Facebook was created to rate young women on their looks so... yes?

Going back to the similarity between Facebook and the tobacco industry that the article points out, you could make the case that Phillip Morris is not to blame because people are naturally prone to nicotine addiction. I hope that at some point we as a society figure out that unregulated social media has the same damaging potential as tobacco, alcohol or gambling, especially for kids.

> As a culture we adore beauty, wealth, power To be fair, humanity has adored these three traits throughout history. This adoration is somewhat built into us naturally. Our current culture certainly amplifies and capitalizes on it. Facebook is a big player within the current culture.

> Facebook just makes it super easy for people to become obsessed with something by "connecting" with it.

“Just”? I would say this is plenty enough. And this is done willingly. So is it their fault ? Yes (not exclusively though)

Is it Facebook / Instagram's fault or us as a culture?


Implying that Facebook/Instagram isn't our culture.

It's one and the same.

Humans are easily addicted. It seems tantamount to selling drugs that are harmful to the minds of children. It is debatable about whether or not selling those drugs to adults is ok, but I'm not sure many people would be OK with selling them to children.

Why not both?

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