Contrary to The Wall Street Journal’s characterization, Instagram’s research shows that on 11 of 12 well-being issues, teenage girls who said they struggled with those difficult issues also said that Instagram made them better rather than worse.
That is from…Facebook, but it seems to be true. Here is some further exposition:
In fact, in 11 of 12 areas on the slide referenced by the Journal — including serious areas like loneliness, anxiety, sadness and eating issues — more teenage girls who said they struggled with that issue also said that Instagram made those difficult times better rather than worse. Body image was the only area where teen girls who reported struggling with the issue said Instagram made it worse as compared to the other 11 areas. But here also, the majority of teenage girls who experienced body image issues still reported Instagram either made it better or had no impact.
The mainstream media, not surprisingly, are interpreting all this as a big takedown for Facebook, one of their main competitors I might add. Here is one relevant image:
I would make two more general points. First, you could very easily argue that eyeglasses make (many not all) teenage girls feel worse about their body image. Lots of things will. Automobiles. Parties. Clothes shops. Such costs are not zero, but they have to be put in perspective.
Second, the lives of teenage girls are messy and complex. Anything that plays a noticeable role in said lives also will have effects that are messy and complex. Deal with it. The same used to be true of the (old-fashioned) telephone as well, not to mention birth control pills and automobiles.
Instagram is a huge “universe,” and I have only a fragmentary knowledge of it. Yet virtually everything I have seen, read, and heard indicates it is one of the more positive corners of the internet.
All via Nir Eyal. And do note that I write for Facebook at marginalrevolution.bulletin.com. Not afraid to tell you, though, that this post is what I really think. I argued similar points years earlier in my book Big Business: Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero.
p.s. Every now and then tylercowenfairfax does some Instagram Stories…