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By Samuel D. James, First Things, 10 . 8 . 21

Samuel D. James serves as associate acquisitions editor at Crossway Books and publishes a regular newsletter called Insights.


For a few hours on October 4, the developed world experienced a temporary increase in emotional health and psychological peace. The reason? Facebook crashed. A major error in the social networking company’s servers plunged its app, as well as Instagram, into the digital abyss. Despite some tantalizing predictions of impending doom for the unpopular corporation, Facebook fixed the issue, and everything went back to normal.

This is good news for Mark Zuckerberg, but bad news for millions of his youngest customers. For teenage girls especially, the “normal” of maximal social media intake comes at enormous personal cost. Observers of Gen Z teens and young adults have known for a while that social media correlates strongly with negative social and psychological effects, but a Wall Street Journal investigation last month reinforced this point. According to corporate documents obtained by the Journal, Facebook’s leadership has been aware for some time that its key user demographic—young females—reports significant mental health consequences from heavy use of Instagram. …

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