Coalition of States Examines Instagram’s Psychological Effect on Teens

A coalition of states attorneys general launched Thursday an investigation into Instagram’s ways of attracting and affecting the younger generation, especially younger girls, in their latest attempt to harshen regulatory scrutiny on Meta Platforms Inc, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The examination into the social networking platform led by eight states, with Massachusetts and Nebraska state attorneys vocalizing their concerns on “the techniques utilized by Meta to increase the frequency and duration of engagement by young users and the resulting harms caused by such extended engagement.”

The main goal behind the examination is to measure how Meta uses its technology to heighten users’ engagement through different approaches that could be violating consumer protection laws and jeopardizing the public’s mental well-being.

“When social media platforms treat our children as mere commodities to manipulate for longer screen time engagement and data extraction, it becomes imperative for a coalition of states attorneys general to engage our investigative authority under our consumer protection laws,” said Doug Peterson, Nebraska’s Republican Attorney General.

While the comprehensive list of coalition of states joining the investigation has yet to be publicized. A spokesperson close to the matter stated it is nationwide, with attorneys from California, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont joining their efforts.

The states’ latest move comes after a harsh scrutinizing examination has been launched into Meta’s conduct of prioritizing wealth at the expense of young users. The psychological effect Instagram has on teenagers has proved to be detrimental as it results in internal body image issues with young women.

According to The Wall Street Journal’s research on the effect of social media on this demographic revealed that such platforms, particularly Instagram, can trigger “negative social comparison” on a wide range of users, in reference to the platform’s own internal research, highlighting that its particular focus on appearance caused more harm than other similar platforms.

In September, following the research’s publicization, Adam Mosseri, Instagram CEO, recognized the damaging effects the platform has, and further added that the company is facing challenges in rectifying the situation.

He then went on to elaborate how Meta’s social networking products add a certain flavor to life, as it delivers users with more advantages, compared to the harm inflicted.

But one thing Mosseri did not take into consideration, that while these products do benefit users to some extent, the emissivity from Instagram towards its young users will leave a psychological mark deemed damaging by mental health experts.

In a statement released on Thursday, the company addressed the issue, stating that is already tackling some of the problems highlighted by the bipartisan coalition.

“We’ve led the industry in combating bullying and supporting people struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-injury, and eating disorders,” the company stated.

“We continue to build new features to help people who might be dealing with negative social comparisons or body image issues, including our new ‘Take a Break’ feature and ways to nudge them towards other types of content if they’re stuck on one topic,” the statement added.

This bipartisan investigation is not the first of its kind, as states have already publicized their concern regarding this ever-growing overtake of social media on young teens.

Earlier this year, Instagram revealed plans to create a separate platform exclusively for preteens. However, the company’s announcement was hastily faced with discontent from a coalition of states, with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, with 43 other states and U.S. regions addressing the project in a letter.

The letter strictly demanded an instant halt of Instagram’s scheme, claiming that the social networking company previously foundered in directing its attention towards the vitality of mental health and the role it plays in feeding bullying and child predators.

At the time, the letter was disregarded by Mr. Mosseri, stating that this matter should be addressed by the legislative authority.

Facebook, now Meta has failed to protect young people on its platforms and instead chose to ignore or, in some cases, double down on known manipulations that pose a real threat to physical and mental health – exploiting children in the interest of profit,” said Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey.

The attorney generals from various states have shown their true intentions and efforts towards combating the damaging effect of Meta’s social networking platforms, and the means Instagram adopts towards marketing its product features, structured with the sole purpose of harnessing teens insecurities to augment the duration spent on its platform for profit.

While it is true that Facebook re-labeled itself, the fact remains that its social networking platform has played a requisite role in feeding teenagers’ insecurities for its own benefit. Using teens as a commodity to enlarge its wealth has put the conglomerate under the regulatory, legal, and authoritarian spotlight, as further probes could follow to discuss and halt the potential impact of Instagram on mental health.