WHEN 17 year old Abby started scrolling through Instagram, she was looking for support.
After transitioning to homeschooling after being severely bullied by friends, she hopes to find others going through similar challenges in online communities.
But to her horror, she says she’s been sucked into a dark world she’s never experienced before, where strangers encourage her to self-harm and even urge her to do so. urged her to take her own life.
It had a serious impact on her mental health, and she was hospitalized in May 2021 and remains in supervised care.
Abby shares her story in a new BBC Three documentary called The Instagram Effect, airing this evening, in which former employees target the platform’s “outstanding profits before everyone else”.
The social media platform, which has £64 billion ($86 billion) in revenue and over a billion users globally, has become one of the most influential social media companies in the world.
Greg Hochmuth, one of Instagram’s first engineers in 2010, said the company’s ethos changed after it was acquired by Mark Zuckerberg for $1 billion in 2012, and content moderation was handed over to Facebook.
Abby, who lives in Newcastle with her mother Alyson and twin sister Jessica and is training to be a nurse, joined Instagram in 2016 and spends six hours a day browsing the page.
She said she’ll see posts tagged #Sadquotes, containing phrases related to how she’s feeling.
Abby admits that she “would probably not have known what self-harm is” if she hadn’t gone through those accounts.
“You like them, people who already like follow you and you follow them and then you get attracted to that community,” she explains.
“I think, these people understand what I’m going through, they’re going through the same thing as me and they’re telling me to harm myself, and telling me to kill myself.
“I’m starting to really want to hurt myself, and I will. But most of the time I don’t really want to and I just do it because on Instagram it’s pretty and people make it look good.
I’m starting to really want to hurt myself, and I will. But most of the time I don’t really want to and I just do it because on Instagram it’s beautified and people make it look good.
Abby, 17 years old
“Everything on Instagram is flashy, whether it’s shopping, making money, or self-harm.”
Abby added: “You would be added to groups and people would tell us to kill ourselves and they wanted to do it together. And they want to video call to harm themselves, which is just perverse.
“I know how long I had to be in the water to drown myself. I already know how much Paracetamol it takes to kill myself. I know how many minutes it takes you to have something wrapped around your neck like an extension cord. “
Starve to look like Insta models
Former employee Hannah Ray, who was a community manager, said she saw how accounts went viral overnight if they chose to “highlight them”, originally the @instagram account, has 440 million followers.
“Every time we share someone’s account, you see their account blow up,” she said. “I feel nervous about having to make those editorial decisions, partly because of the reach,” she said. the big influence and impact it can have on someone’s life.
“I think we knew we were on the cusp of something big and powerful and impactful. I don’t think we were aware of how big it was going to be.”
Influencer Lauren Black, who has more than 123,000 followers on Instagram, has experienced this first-hand.
When she started sharing content in 2017, she only had 30,000 followers, but after she started posting on Instagram’s new function IGTV, her follower count grew to 100k after just one night.
“I wasn’t mentally prepared for that,” Lauren said. I became quite nervous because I had to please thousands of people a day more than usual.
“My device usage is about 13 hours a day. I’ve been on Instagram from the moment I wake up to the time I go to bed, scrolling, liking and scrolling a few more. ”
My device usage is about 13 hours a day. I’ve been on Instagram from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep
Lauren claims comparing herself to others on the app caused her to develop an eating disorder.
She’s followed a lot of different influencers who range from size 4 to 6, and that body type has become her goal.
Lauren begins to ignore her when she’s hungry and will throw away the “smallest amount” when she eats.
She admitted: “I was starving myself, but I didn’t realize I was in the middle of it all when.”
On top of that, she’s using filters in her selfies and taking pictures of her body.
“All of my images will be thoroughly edited,” she said. “I’m comparing myself to the fake person I’m looking at and not really realizing I’m doing it.
“I thought I would get more followers and new opportunities. I just created this vision in mind that if I do this, it will be the result. ”
During the pandemic, Lauren befriended a neighbor with an eating disorder, who advised her to seek help. She sought treatment in June 2020.
Lauren now insists on posting “enhanced content” and never edits her photos.
‘Profit before everyone’
Former Instagram employees suggest that Abby and Lauren’s case likely happened because of algorithms that Meta created when purchasing the app in 2012.
Greg quit after he realized that people were using Instagram in a dark and unexpected way, “it’s not the nice community we envisioned”.
“It gets to the point where you have no control over it and it has a life of its own,” he said.
Last year, American data analyst Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, leaked thousands of internal company documents, revealing a “conflict of interest between what’s good for the public and what’s good for the public. what’s good for Facebook.”
She claims the social media platform “has chosen to optimize for its own good, like making more money”.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has denied the allegations.
In October, Frances warned Congress that Instagram may never be safe for school children, and the company’s own research shows it has turned them into addicts.
Frances also publicizes Meta’s private research – revealing it has found 13% of UK teenagers, who are thinking about suicide, are Instagram-driven and one in three teenage girls give that this social networking app gives them body image problems.
“The company’s management knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer,” she said.
Teens are killing themselves for Instagram
“They have put their terrible profits before everyone else. Are we facing one of the fundamental conflicts of our civilization… will we let algorithms rule us, or will people rule algorithms?
“This is just the beginning. And what I think young people see is how serious the problems are, because teenagers are killing themselves because of Instagram.
“Facebook’s internal research says that Instagram is about the body and about social comparison… it’s seen as a small window into other people’s lives and compared like, your life as it is. How about theirs?”
A spokesperson for Meta said: “People come to Instagram to express themselves, discover and connect. We know they will only continue to do so if they feel safe, which is why. we spent about $5 billion on safety and security on our apps last year and that continues to be our top priority.We work with experts around the world to develop our rules and build features that help protect people and give them more control over their experience.
“Suicide, self-harm, and eating disorders are complex mental health issues and our thoughts go out to anyone affected by them.
“While we do, on the advice of our experts, allow people to talk about their own experiences with these issues, we try not to recommend this content. We have never allowed people to promote or glorify suicide, self-harm, or eating disorders.
“We have built sophisticated technology to help us find and remove this content faster and we are in discussions with regulators about bringing this technology to the UK. We also want to make sure we’re providing support to our community, which is why we direct people looking for these topics to organizations like Samaritans and Beat.
“We hope CCDH will share their report with us so we can understand what they found and continue to improve.”
Watch ‘Instagram Effect’ on BBC Three, Monday 7th February at 9pm.
Contact with the Samaritans
If you are affected by any of the issues outlined in this article, contact The Samaritans on 116 123.
They are available for free at any time.
Or email https://www.samaritans.org/
https://www.the-sun.com/news/4632352/instagram-effect-lauren-black-suicide-eating-disorders/ I allegedly committed suicide in sick Instagram support groups