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Instagram is harming the average teen’s mental health 

The app makes body image issues worse for 1 in 3 girls, according to recently leaked research that Facebook saw 2 years ago. 


Shannon McLaughlin, 18, from Black Burn has opened up to The Guardian about how social media has harmed her mental health. 

“Since being diagnosed with depression and anxiety in my early teens, my mental heatlh has definitely affect by social media,” she said. “It really affected the way I looked at my body.”  

Whistle-blower Frances Haugen has brought attention to Instagram and how it affects young teens. Internal research that Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, commissioned was leaked to the Wall Street Journal by Haugen. One slide WSJ leaked reveals that “the app has made body image issues worse for one in three girls and in one Facebook study of teenagers in the UK and the US, more than 40% of Instagram users who said they felt “unattractive” said the feeling began while using the app.” Not only were some feeling unattractive others were feeling depressed, but others were also feeling like they did not have the “ideal” body type or felt like they were not as good as the person on their screens.  

Facebook had the internal research about Instagram over the past 2 years prior to it being leaked by Haugen. 

The research showed that 13.5% of teen girls believe Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17% of teen girls say that it makes eating disorders worse.  

Jackie, the name has been changed for anonymity 15, a Burnaby high school student stated that Instagram had caused her slight depression, which had only got worse the more she used the app.  

“I started to compare myself to other Instagram girls and I felt like I wasn’t as pretty as them,” Davis told 8forty.  

She started expressing how she felt to her friends and family, her family encouraged her to see a therapist which she is now doing.  

Similarly, McLaughlin was scrolling through Instagram but to only find great things on other people’s post, which only made her feel “so much worse.”  

“In fact, it made me feel like I was doing something wrong.” She was constantly seeing unrealistic skinny bodies who were applauded for the way they looked.  

“It not only affected how I was feeling about myself mentally, but also physically. It really affected the way I looked at my own body.” 

A survey created by Pew Research Centre showed that 95% of 13-17-year-olds had access to a smart phone. And research by the National Centre for Heath showed that 72% of 13–17-year-olds use Instagram. This research further shows that 45% are constantly on social media. 

Part of the problem seems to be Instagram’s algorithm. Lindsay Dubin, 19, told the Wall Street Journal that after she liked just a few workout videos, her feed was filled with work out videos and adds about the topic – far more than she wanted to see.  

“I’m pounded with it every time I go on Instagram,” she told the Wall Street Journal. 

Facebook has created an article to reply to the WSJ leaked slide shows about teens and mental health. The reply article shows that Facebook is mostly looking at the positive aspect of mental health problems related to Instagram. In the article Facebook said “22% of teens said that using Instagram made them feel better about their body.”  

When talking about suicidal thoughts, there was 1% of the entire teen group who took the survey who had suicidal thoughts from Instagram. “Even if one person who feels this started on Instagram is one to many,” said Facebook. The article goes on to state that in an effort to drop these numbers, they “have in invested so heavily in support, resources and interventions for people using our services.”  

However, some teens are taking a different toll from Instagram. Davis said that using social media takes away from real life interactions with her peers.  

“When I am with my friends, I’m usually on my phone. This disconnects me with my friends, and I end up missing important things,” she told 8forty.  

According to Davis, these disconnections can ruin friendships because it can make someone feel as though their friends do not care about what they must say. In result the person on Instagram can end up losing friends and feeling lonely because in the moment they do not realize they are being inconsiderate. 

“Instagram doesn’t help me; it distracts me from my friends and family,” Jackie Davis says. 

Image Credit: Christian Wiediger

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