In a society where the internet is a large part of daily life, as well as a popular vessel for media consumption, it is important to be wary of how exactly the internet is affecting those who use it. Frances Haugen recently shed a light on the discrepancies between Facebook’s public statements versus how they actually conduct business behind closed doors. Critics are bashing Facebook for choosing profits over morality and overlooking damaging content because it could mean less user interaction, and consequently less income, for the company. Nonetheless, Facebook executives have disputed the disparaging remarks, even though there is undeniable evidence that the company’s influence on society is anything but healthy.
Facebook is arguably one of the biggest monopolies of the 21st century. The multi-billion dollar company owns some of the most widely used social media apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp, making it largely responsible for a phenomenon that some are calling “Instagram Face”. One of Haugen’s main concerns was that Facebook is overlooking content, specifically on Instagram, that promotes unattainable standards and affects the public’s perception of beauty. This phenomenon contributes to body dysmorphia and mental health issues in those who are most vulnerable, which is generally young women. Haugen argued that Facebook knows about the effect that this content has on young people, yet they “won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.”
Since the rise of Instagram, there has also been data to suggest the number of eating disorders in women has increased. According to a 2021 study conducted by the PMC, increased Instagram use leads to symptoms of body dysmorphia in a large number of women. During Haugen’s hearing on Oct. 5, Senator Amy Klobuchar said, “studies have found that eating disorders actually have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness for women.” The reason this is important is because Facebook knows that the algorithm can be harmful to people who might be susceptible to these types of mental illnesses. Although Facebook is aware of the fact that there are some very dangerous consequences to the algorithm, there are hardly any changes being made to blunt the damage.
Teenagers aren’t the only ones being affected by the way Facebook regulates its content. Students at PCC have expressed concerns over Instagram and the way it has changed the public’s perception of beauty. “I think the worst app as far as unattainable beauty standards would be Instagram,” PCC student Samantha Velazquez said. “[Social media] definitely has the power to decrease or increase your self-worth by how much attention or lack thereof you receive on social media platforms… It perpetuates an unattainable look that can make young girls or boys feel inadequate.”
“I think it’s well known that instagram is horrible with it’s unattainable beauty standards, you are getting videos and photos. I feel like it’s a prerequisite of being on the site, guys dig it and girls are hurt by it,” Courier opinion editor Erin Kroncke explains. “I think social media should be regulated. I don’t think anything pertaining to beauty might be affected by regulation but I feel it should. Shielding girls and women from unattainable beauty standards sounds like a great idea. Sign me up!”
Facebook’s inability to change the way it operates proves to be the main concern of Haugen and those who support the claims against the corporation. The lack of control over content and slew of false claims to the media have proven to be harmful to their image, yet it doesn’t seem to faze them enough to fundamentally change the way their company handles business. Instead, a rebrand seemed to be a more viable option to the company, creating a “Metaverse” where they can start from scratch. The only problem is that the public already knows about Facebook’s harmful practices and a rebrand is not going to change that.
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