MENTAL HEALTH

Why many young women feel bad after using social media

For young boys and girls, it has become a tool that poses a great danger to their well-being.

In Summary

• According to Plan International, one in five girls have stopped or significantly reduced their use of social media because of harassment or abuse online.

• While there are measures users can take such as reporting offensive content or users to the platform support team, often, the feedback is not satisfactory.

According former Facebook employee and whistleblower, Frances Haugen, Facebook ignores teenage girls' mental health to get more engagement on the platform.
SOCIAL MEDIA According former Facebook employee and whistleblower, Frances Haugen, Facebook ignores teenage girls' mental health to get more engagement on the platform.
Image: COURTESY

Social media has shown itself to be a blessing and a curse in this digital age.

For young boys and girls, it has become a tool that poses a great danger to their well-being.

Online, anyone can present a facade that they wish to portray on the internet, especially using filters, and that is a great danger to young people’s self-image.

According to Plan International, one in five girls have stopped or significantly reduced their use of social media because of harassment or abuse online.

Facebook, now known as Meta, is the social media platform most frequented by young people, especially as they start to discover social media.

“Our research has found that 65 per cent of girls think Facebook is the social media platform which has the most misinformation and disinformation,” an article by Plan International said.

This means that they are exposed to lies, mistruths and inaccurate representations that Plan said, can have profound consequences on their overall well-being.

Social media platforms are constantly assuring their users that their safety on the platforms is guaranteed.

While there are measures users can take such as reporting offensive content or users to the platform support team, often, the feedback is not satisfactory.

One Facebook user who goes by the name Atieno, told the Star that she reported a user who was sending her insults for refusing to share her phone number with him on Facebook.

“The request went through but the insults kept coming in. The worst part is that his comments were getting so many likes as if he was a celebrity. I ended up leaving Facebook for a while so he would perhaps forget about me,” she said.

In October 2021, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen blew the whistle on Facebook’s algorithm that propels the spread of misinformation instead of stopping it.

Haugen revealed that misinformation is the content that gets the most engagement on social media and Facebook's algorithm makes sure it spreads to more people for more time on their platform.

The whistle-blower revealed to The Wall Street Journal that Facebook’s algorithm overlooks reports by teenage girls and boys who report the effects of harmful content they encounter on the platform.

Girls reported feeling bad about their bodies after seeing other people on the platform with what they considered to be the perfect bodies and Facebook chose to ignore those reports.

Such misrepresentations are harmful to young girls mentally, physically, and emotionally as they feel like they have to achieve that standard of beauty.

Plan said that social media companies have a responsibility to the people who use their platforms.

“They must ensure that content published and promoted as a result of their algorithms and decision-making do not place children and girls at risk,” they said.

They added that governments have a duty to protect children from all forms of violence, including holding businesses who fail to ensure this to account.

“As pressure builds on lawmakers to act, we want to see girls and young women meaningfully brought into these discussions, to ensure policies and measures are informed by their experiences.”