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Mental health, communications professionals speak on social media negativity

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:29 PM EDT
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(WITN) - Facebook and Instagram are under fire in Congress after a whistleblower raised her concern on the negative effects the apps are having on children.

Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen brought the social media giant under fire, alleging a problematic algorithm that focuses on profit over safety.

“When we realized that tobacco was hiding the harms it caused, the government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seatbelts, the government took action. And when our government learned that opioids were taking lives, the government took action. I implore you to do the same here.”

Frances Haugen

Local and longtime communications professionals raised their own questions on Facebook’s use of algorithms.

“There’s the question whether Facebook is actually a producer of content or a news medium that falls under first amendment protections under our constitution; or is it a platform for other people to message? What is the status of Facebook? Like I said, that’s confused because it’s both an interpersonal technology for that kind of communication and both a mass media technology.”

Brian Massey, ECU communications professor

Mental health professionals are concerned with the negative effects of social media on the youth.

“One of the biggest traps — I believe — for teenagers, is they go on the internet, and they see folks who have these model bodies and these perfect teenage lives and all of a sudden they feel like their life is horrible because it doesn’t measure up to the illusion someone is putting on the internet.”

Keith Hamm, Integrated Family Services

An ex-employee calls for Congress to make Facebook face responsibility for its actions. Local professionals call for individuals to be responsible and careful.

“Ultimately it comes down to us as consumers as to whether we wish to tolerate this or not and the consequences of it.”

Brian Massey, ECU communications professor

Hamm says “It does come down to our responsibility, and if I could say one thing to parents as someone again who responded to teenagers for 10 years: you need to be involved in your child’s social media. It’s much more easy for us to be negative than positive as a general rule as people and so we’re going to gravitate to the negative.”

An internal study cited over 13 percent of teen girls say Instagram makes suicidal thoughts worse.

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