Every morning as I await my ride to school, I sit on the front porch and pull out my phone. I open up Instagram and scroll, looking at different news pages for updates on what is happening in our world. I always find it interesting the things that get people fired up, but this past Monday was particularly different.
As I was scrolling I came across a post with a quote from a 60 Minutes interview with a whistleblower from Facebook. Being a teenager who absolutely despises almost everything about social media, I immediately knew I had to look into this.
I discovered that Facebook has been accused of researching statistics about the safety of their algorithms secretly and did not use the results to influence change in their systems. Along with this, it was uncovered that their Instagram platform causes depression, eating disorders, and increased thoughts of suicide in teenage girls, which actually encourages them to come back and use the app more.
It is weird, if you really think about it, that the codes and algorithms that make up social media have such a huge impact on our lives in so many ways. The average person spends 2 hours and 24 minutes a day on social media, and in that time can scroll through thousands of posts, exposing themselves to numerous varieties of propaganda, misinformation, and perfect photos of "perfect" people. According to numerous sources, Facebook is using an algorithm that feeds posts to users in the best interest of the company.
As scary as it was to read about the stats that were recently revealed, I had to remind myself that this is not new information, in fact, I knew that Instagram was dangerous even before I jumped on the bandwagon and downloaded it back in 2018. It got me thinking about the fact that I didn’t care, and still today no one pays attention to these details. Teens and adults are so addicted to their socials that they don’t think about the effects it has on them.
With this Facebook news being given such large coverage by the media, it is hard not to wonder if this changes anything. Will people ever truly be able to live without the world at their fingertips? Where exactly is it that we need to see the change? Will the population of social media be able to control their usage?
As much as we hope that the studies coming from Facebook will help people to become more aware of how they are using these platforms, there may never be a clear answer to these problems. I look forward to exploring these issues with you in my coming columns.
Anna Brennan is a sophomore at Byron High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, firstname.lastname@example.org.