In just ten years, Instagram has gained over a billion users worldwide, shaping culture, trends and the way we live our lives. But its impact on society is increasingly being questioned as governments step up efforts to regulate social media networks.
This is the first documentary to examine the app’s effects on users since whistleblower Frances Haugen disclosed internal company research proving Facebook, now known as Meta, was aware of Instagram’s role in exacerbating issues around body image and self-harm for younger users. Meta says the research shows the majority of its users have a positive experience on the platform.
Haugen and a number of former Instagram and Facebook insiders, many speaking on camera for the first time, speak candidly about life inside the company. They reveal details of pivotal moments, such as Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012, and explain how these decisions shaped Instagram and its values.
The power of the platform is also explored through revealing testimonies from three British users: Lauren, Chenade and Abby. With unflinching honesty, they describe how their lives have been impacted by the app. Lauren was on Instagram for 13 hours per day and found herself increasingly struggling with an eating disorder.
Chenade decided to get a Brazilian butt lift, one of the most dangerous cosmetic surgeries in the world, and promote it to her Instagram followers, only to regret her decision soon after. Meanwhile, home-schooled Abby turned to Instagram for solace and found herself sucked into anti-recovery communities who promote self-harm.
The Instagram Effects airs Monday 7th February at 9pm on BBC Three.