But yes – the internet was up in arms after they couldn’t get their social media fix for most of Monday afternoon.
And while that inconvenience was annoying, sure…I think it was a planned outage, as the timing was a little too convenient, given that during the exact same time, the Facebook whistleblower was blowing up the global news scene.
An attempt to bury the story? Or an attempt to draw even more attention to it? Or, merely an uncanny coincidence? Who knows.
What I do know, is that the information that came out absolutely disgusts me.
Now, let’s be honest, I’m not surprised.
The fact that we learned that Zuckerberg and Co. were tailoring the apps – Instagram in particular – to make people spend as much time on their platform is no surprise here.
Learning that they were preying on and amplifying young women’s insecurities to keep them on the app, now that is a level of sinister that I cannot believe.
According to the whistleblower, Frances Haugen, Instagram (owned by Facebook) knew the harm that it was causing…knowing that the app worsened body image issues for 1 in 3 teens, and for those struggling with eating disorders, spending time on Instagram made them worse.
And Facebook also knew that their app increased suicidal thoughts in 13.5 percent of teenage girls.
Hearing that is heart wrenching and sad – but sadly, it’s makes sense, when the app is created as a highlight reel, for people to sit and scroll for hours at a time, comparing their bodies with photoshopped images, comparing their lives to celebrities‘ lavish lifestyles and vacations, comparing their social lives to the popular kids’ posts at school, and comparing their “worth” to the number of likes their posts receive.
But what Haugen revealed that was truly nefarious, is how Facebook/Instagram would recommend “pro-anorexia” videos to users who searched for “nutrition” or “diet tips” in an effort to boost the algorithms’ secret combination for addiction: virality and engagement.
I cannot even begin to express how absolutely terrible that is.
I’m going to be honest, I know a little bit about those “anorexia” communities of Instagram. In fact, I started my blog after I stumbled across one of those pro-ana secret communities on Instagram.
My heart broke to see all these young girls struggling so hard, and “bragging” about their “body-check” photos where their ribs and chest bones were protruding. Where they’d post a photo of the scale with terrifyingly low numbers, or feeding tubes or IV drips at the hospital where they’d been admitted.
Gut wrenching images, glorifying a disease that kills young women, and almost killed me.
And seeing those images as a young woman who was strong in recovery, it broke me to know that, had I had access to a global anorexia-glorifying community like this — where they’d encourage one another to skip meals, or purge, or lose more weight — I hate to admit that I most certainly would have, at the very least, found a sick fascination with it, if not had fully participated.
So to think of the terrible, horrific, and deadly repercussions such groups have caused, I am disgusted that Instagram would willingly and purposefully promote it, for “virality and engagement’s” sake.
Listening to this repulsive news break over the past couple days, there were three words that kept popping up in my mind, like a broken record on repeat.
Guard your heart.
And the more news I listened to, the louder those words got. So I decided to unpack.
If there has been one thing that has been the most practically beneficial for my recovery — one thing that has helped keep me on the “straight and narrow” for the last 14 years now, it would be that: guard your heart.
There’s a reason why I don’t follow models or celebrities (other than Justin Bieber) on Instagram. There’s a reason why I don’t obsess over New York Fashion Week or the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, or watch movies like The Black Swan where the lead is waif thin.
It’s because I’m guarding my recovery. Because whether you’re in recovery or not, what we consume matters.
Violent images, promiscuous themes or song lyrics, graphic sexual violence or pornographic content. Filthy language. Devious and disrespectful behavior glorified in characters or storylines. These things grate away at our souls, truly.
That is not an overreaction, or some puritan, out-of-touch-with-reality idea.
We are what we consume on a regular basis. And it is terrifying to think what Instagram and social media exposes – not only us to – but children.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil 4:8
Spending time on a platform where people only project their “perfect” side of life, where images of beautiful models and celebrities are airbrushed and manipulated to an unachievable standard of beauty, where you’re constantly comparing your looks, your life, your achievements, your existence — to everyone else’s filtered version of reality on a global scale, it’s no wonder depression is rampant in young people.
Facebook knew that. And instead of doing something that change it, they escalated it.
I don’t know what the solution is here. To boycott, to sell stock. I just don’t know. Because my heart always finds its way back to those hurting young girls, posting their thigh gaps on pro-ana communities.
For me, I’m going to continue to try to be a light. To use my account, @beauty.beyond.bones to be a counter-example, illuminating the beauty and joy of recovery — a life without ED. Showing that freedom is possible, and worth it. Reminding them that they are worth it.
In my mind, Instagram is like hand-to-hand evangelization. I know I am willingly stepping into the lion’s den. But if there’s an opportunity to reach even one person, and impress upon them the beauty of recovery, then I will willing answer the call.
What do you think about what was revealed from the Facebook Whistleblower? Were you surprised? What do you think is next for Zuckerberg and Co?
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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