Facebook Frenzy: Social Media’s Impact on Teens Heads to Congress

Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp. The social media tech giant, morphed into a collective company, unsurprisingly makes headlines in news all across the world, although this time, it might have Zuckerberg shaking a bit. The coveted “whistleblower” emerges and Congress is intrigued. Frances Haugen, former Facebook employee, is ready to not take the company down, but improve it, releasing crucial information and documents pertaining to Facebook’s behind-the-scenes many are ignorant to. With an actual bi-partisan intrigue, something that’s been pretty scarce in recent times, it seems that real action is about to take place in those white-walled, carpeted, desk-trodden rooms of Congress. The crackdown on big tech is about to begin.

Seated in front of representatives, Senator Blumenthal (D-CT), Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security hosts a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower.” Haugen is set to testify. The repercussions of this trial have the potential to, with some effort, shift a power dynamic in the U.S. Big tech will no longer be allowed to operate in line with outdated legislation dating back to the 70s, but updated, 21st century idealized laws set in place. The topic on how much power social media should have is quite divided between Republicans and Democrats, but one claim is not: the impact on kids. 

Instagram has long been regarded as a scene of budding insecurities among younger users, disportionately affecting younger girls. Startling statistics scatter the site, and as teen usage increases, more and more teens are feeling the impact of the untouchable standards and misinformation spewed by these sites. 

Unsurprisingly, one in five young adults using Instagram claim it worsens the image of themselves, right in line with the constant claims of body insecurities. Young girls, especially, are extremely susceptible to this type of information while they swipe through the app; from unrealistic models, plastic surgery propaganda, and potentially dangerous diet fads and weight loss ads, it sets up an equation of failure and harm. Haugen attested to this, claiming Facebook is aware of the anorexia and eating disorder content that is on the site, further targeting girls. Ignorance might be bliss, but Facebook’s attempt to hide this sort of information may be short-lived. Additional content, such as over-sexualization of girls, hate speech, and the pressures of monetary and societal standards to be met are felt by the children using the site. A poll released by Facebook in their lengthy slideshow (that both take responsibility while beating around the bush) shows the specific statistics regarding body insecuring, with 32.4% of girls saying Instagram worsened the relationship with their body, where only 22.1%said it helped. This worries parents, politicians, and has even started to worry the users. Is awareness the key to helping kids? Is it legal action?

Will that only cause more division, more hurt, and more problems? 

With three-quarters of teens using Snapchat and Instagram, the pure thought of these types of images popping up on their devices should scare us. As social media continues to grow, reaching farther and farther into the world, its negative effects will continue to affect the masses. Is Facebook’s weak attempt at a new slate with their name change “Meta” enough to rid it of it’s controversial past, or will its reclusive, closed-door portrayal be their downfall? Will government institutions change this, or continue on the line of profit over its people? Questions run the game right now, and as the case continues, the fate of social media lies in politician hands, public hands, and our hands.