Recently, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen released pages of internal research and documents showing the social media giant's various problems. The said research and documents show that Facebook-owned Instagram has a toxic effect on teenage girls, especially in terms of eating disorders.
In addition to the said research, Haugen also revealed that 17 percent of teenage women said that the app intensifies eating disorder. Aside from this, 13.5 percent of girls surveyed shared that Instagram worsens the thought of suicide and self-injury, per The Counter.
This percentage strongly supports anorexia survivor Ashlee Thomas' story. Thomas is one of the teenagers who were affected by the Instagram contents of the influencers, per wtopnews. Thomas recalled that she started following clean eating influencers. Through this, she wanted to be approved and loved the same way as the influencers she follows.
Unfortunately, the opposite thing happened to her, as she began hating herself. Thomas added that after a commenter replied to her post that she is fat, her eating disorder began. She remembered being forced to eat by her parents.
However, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended Instagram against Haugen's allegation. On his Facebook account, Zuckerberg wrote a 1,300-word statement stating that the said research was misrepresented.
Moreover, there are ways to identify in what ways social media triggers eating disorders as well as what can parents do to prevent it from happening.
5 Ways Social Media Triggers Eating Disorder
In a recent survey of teenagers, Instagram has the highest social media engagement with 81 percent. In addition to this, it is also revealed that teenagers spend about 4.2 hours per day on social media.
Furthermore, Instagram is the highly favored social media with 72 percent of teens using it daily, per Clementine Programs. It also added that 43 percent of teenagers feel bad about themselves if their social media post does not get enough reactions.
Moreover, Clementine Programs also stated that there are five ways social media can trigger eating disorders:
5. Feelings of Exclusion
Social media can make someone easily excluded. In addition to this, exclusion can be felt through seeing friends doing something fun without you.
Several young girls are suffering from eating disorders, which are partly caused by cyberbullying. In addition, it causes depression, feelings of low or no self-worth, fear, and social anxiety.
3. Placing Less Importance on In-Person Interactions
Young women who have bulimia nervosa and other binge eating disorders often do it in private. They isolate themselves because they are ashamed of their behaviors.
2. Unrealistic Perception of Body Image
As mentioned, teen girls on Instagram follow the trends, which could possibly trigger eating disorders. Instagram content includes Instagram models which teen girls aspire to be. In relation to this, teens most likely seek approval from the community to fit in.
1. Easy Access to Pro-Eating Disorder Communities
Members of these communities share stories, photos and even tips and tricks.
What Parents Can Do?
Clementine Programs also shared the things that parents can do to prevent eating disorder to their teen girls, this includes the following:
- Compliment them as often as possible
- Encourage teens to participate other extra curriculars
- Be mindful of the posts you post or engage with
- Institute unplugged hours especially during bedtime
- Be aware on the social media apps they are joining with
8 Online Eating Disorder Support Groups
Aside from the things that parents could do, there are also online support groups for teens who have eating disorder, per Healthline. The said groups are the following:
- Center for Discovery
- Eating Recovery Center
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
- Alliance for Eating Disorders
- Rock Recovery Coffee & Conversation for Moms
- F.E.A.S.T. Around the Dinner Table Forum
- Morningside Chats in the Living Room:
Aside from these support groups, the National Eating Disorders Association in the U.S. has phone, text and chat services available on its website. Meanwhile, Beat in the U.K. has phone and chat services available on its website.