Friday, October 7, 2022

Take a look at Facebook’s internal research over mental health on teens

Instagram

Ever wondered what Facebook’s internal research looks like? 

Well, the social media giant has just released the internal research regarding the effect Instagram has on teenager’s mental health, which was heavily dissected by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) earlier this month. 

The WSJ originally claimed that Facebook is aware that “Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage” of teens, particularly teenage girls,” yet buried the issue under the rug. 

In an attempt to rebut those claims, the research published by Facebook comes in a PDF format, showcasing several slides that offer a rare glimpse into how the tech giant researchers figure out the issues with the platform. 

The slides include long annotations that provide information on how to read and digest the findings of the research. For instance, a slide under the name “The Perfect image, feeling attractive, and having enough money are most likely to have started on Instagram,” explains that the finding in the slide “should not be used as estimates of average experience among teen users.” 

Credits: Facebook 

While another slide titled “One in five teens say that Instagram makes them feel worse about themselves, with UK girls the most negative,” has an annotation under it that reads: “This research was not intended to (and does not) evaluate causal claims between Instagram and health or well-being.”  

Surprisingly, there is a positive finding seen in the research when it comes to the type of content that is positively perceived by teens on Instagram. One slide explains that meme accounts are rated as the top content that “make teens feel the best.” 

Credits: Facebook 

However, other insights included The Wall Street Journal’s expose is not released by Facebook. For example, the WSJ found that Facebook has been on a downhill battle in trying to keep teens and kids engaged. In one slide seen by the WSJ, the social media giant described children’s playdates as “a growth lever for Messenger Kids.” While Facebook has denied such accusation, noting that it was “an insensitive way to pose a serious question and doesn’t reflect our approach to building the app,” the internal research published does not delve deeper into this issue. 

The PDF format of the research slide decks are available on Facebook’s newsroom here, but the publication of the data is unlikely to quiet down the backlash. 

“We know Facebook executives believe that the company has positive overall benefits for the world, and we also know that they are meticulous students of their own data,” The Verge’s Casey Newton wrote on Tuesday. “It’s hard to understand why, if the data is so positive, Facebook is often so reluctant to share it.”  

Criticism aimed at Facebook has already forced the tech giant to halt its work on the Instagram’s Kid version app. On Thursday, tech enthusiasts and average users can expect to hear Facebook’s head of safety testifying at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on child safety on Instagram.