About the author: Derek Thompson is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, technology, and the media. He is the author of Hit Makers and the host of the podcast Crazy/Genius.
Last year, researchers at Instagram published disturbing findings from an internal study on the app’s effect on young women. “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the authors wrote in a presentation obtained by The Wall Street Journal. “They often feel ‘addicted’ and know that what they’re seeing is bad for their mental health but feel unable to stop themselves.”
This was not a new revelation. For years, Facebook, which owns Instagram, has investigated the app’s effects on its users, and it kept getting the same result. “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from a 2019 presentation. “Teens who struggle with mental health say Instagram makes it worse.”
The findings weren’t all negative. Although many teenagers reported that Instagram was compulsive but depressing, most teenagers who acknowledged this dark side said they still thought the app was enjoyable and useful.