Will Frances Haugen’s Testimony Finally Lead to Changes at Facebook?
Protecting our kids from profiteers
Earlier this week, former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Haugen claimed that in spite of Facebook’s own research detailing the harms that social media causes for teens, especially teen girls, they made no changes to address these harms. She was referring to all of Facebook’s companies including Instagram.
Americans heard an indictment of Facebook’s practices of “putting profit over people.” Haugen leaked documents from Facebook to the Wall Street Journal last week that implicated the social media giant in harming children’s well-being. She brought the receipts that will hopefully begin to force Facebook to become more transparent in their business practices and reveal their algorithmic methods.
As a former middle school teacher, I can attest to the fact that social media plays an outsized role in how preteens and teens view themselves. Middle school students already obsess over their appearances and having the ability to compare themselves 24/7 on their social media feeds is unhealthy. When you add an algorithm that feeds girls advertisements for weight loss or glorifies eating disorders, you have a recipe for serious mental harm.
Eloise Rich, a high school senior in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, says that it is completely natural for teens to compare themselves to one another on Instagram. She says, “People purposely try to make themselves look better with filters and photo-editing on Instagram. I’ve seen people make their chins or bodies look slimmer, and when I was younger, I would edit out my own acne.” She went on to say that while she had seen some guys do this as well, it is primarily girls who do so.
She noted the positives about Instagram in terms of helping you figure out your own style. But she also mentioned that she is fed suggested posts that deal with dieting in spite of the fact that she does not search for these topics. She imagines that this is because she is a teenage girl. She has noticed that her male friends’ Instagram feeds are full of suggestions for how to get shredded abs.