Earlier this year, Forbes wrote that Americans spent an average of 1,300 hours on social media last year. While COVID-19 certainly had an impact on that figure, it’s still over 54 days. Regardless of the pandemic, it is undeniable that people are spending more time online. With the recent Facebook whistleblower on 60 Minutes, Time Magazine’s latest cover, and Instagram’s hiatus on Instagram Kids, it seems safe to ask: is social media toxic?
Whistleblower leaks certainly don’t present the social media giant in a good light. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook and Instagram – which is owned by Facebook – have conducted internal studies and have known for years that platforms are harmful to mental health, especially for teens. An internal study on Instagram showed that 32% of teenage girls felt worse about their bodies on the app.
Publicly, however, Instagram seems to disagree, stating in a blog post that “we think creating ‘Instagram Kids’ is the right thing to do” because YouTube and TikTok already have “versions of their app to say the least. 13 years old “.
“Critics of ‘Instagram Kids’ will see this as recognition that the project is a bad idea. It isn’t,” wrote Adam Mosseri, Instagram manager. online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is much better for parents than we are today. “
Some countries have started to tackle the issue of body image, at least with altered images. This summer, Norway passed a law – in a 72-15 vote – requiring advertisers and social media influencers to tag edited images online. Israel was the first to pass legislation on altered images in 2012, with France passing a similar law in 2015, which entered into force in 2017. So while not widespread, this particular part of a dilemma exacerbated by social media has been addressed by lawmakers. .
The disinformation has also been seen by people outside the tech industry, as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other social media and tech CEOs have appeared before Congress a few times to discuss the question. There have been criticisms of Facebook’s algorithm for years, saying it consistently leans toward content that divides for increased engagement.
“When we live in an information environment filled with angry, hateful and polarizing content, it erodes our civic trust, it erodes our faith in each other, it erodes our ability to care for one another,” he said. said Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. over 60 minutes. “The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.”
60-minute correspondent and former CBS Evening News presenter Scott Pelley agreed during the interview.
“Facebook essentially amplifies the worst of human nature,” Pelley said.
Lena Peitch, director of political communications at Facebook, responded to CBS after the 60-minute article, stating in part:
“Every day, our teams must strike a balance between protecting the right of billions of people to speak out openly and the need to make our platform a safe and positive place. We continue to make significant improvements to combat the spread of disinformation and harmful content. To suggest that we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.
In terms of numbers, Facebook still remains the king of the social media sphere as a whole, so it’s no surprise that they are often at the center of the problem.
The study referenced by Forbes estimated that the average of 1,300 hours totaled 58 minutes per day on Facebook. Instagram was the most popular with Gen Z users and was the second most popular overall. So the two main social media networks belong to Facebook. The number of users and the increase in time spent on the platform, coupled with misinformation, is worrying to say the least.
Does this really mean social media is toxic? It seems harder to find those who don’t currently work for a social media company to say it’s not toxic. Inventions that change society are seldom free from major drawbacks, but that doesn’t mean they should be left as they are. These companies have become some of the largest and most profitable in the world, but with growing evidence against them, the age of social media in the Wild West may be coming to an end.