The shocking decline of two happy, pre-teen girls after they became obsessed with their weight and calorie intake is laid bare today in new photographs as their mothers sue Instagram, claiming the app drove them to starve themselves and, in one case, attempt suicide.
Kentucky mothers Candace Wuest and Alexandra Martin are suing Instagram’s parent company Meta in separate lawsuits filed on Monday.
They claim the app targeted their daughters – and millions of other vulnerable girls – with calorie-restrictive recipes, photos of skeletal models and a fatal algorithm which pushed both to the top of the girls’ feeds.
In Wuest’s daughter’s case, she tried to take her own life after writing in letters about the crippling societal pressure to be thin and beautiful.
Their cases are the latest in a growing number of damning examples that suggest how the app is harming young people’s mental health, particularly that of impressionable teenage girls.
This 12-year-old girl from Kentucky, named in court documents as CN, became obsessed with calorie-restricting diets on Instagram. She lost a startling amount of weight in a single year, then tried to kill herself
Alex Martin, another girl from Kentucky, became so obsessed with being thin that she lost 20lbs in three months. She is shown, right, at her lightest, after using Instagram for three months
Wuest’s daughter is named only as CN in the lawsuit. It describes how they started scouring Instagram together for recipes in 2017, when CN was 12.
‘At first, CN used Instagram to communicate with her mom and find recipes. She frequently messaged Candace recipes for exciting new foods—usually sweets—which they would often make together. CN loved looking for new recipes.
‘After a while, however, she stopped sending recipes and became preoccupied with the idea that she needed to be slender.
‘By sixth grade, the recipes stopped entirely,’ the lawsuit says.
Soon, the 12-year-old was in groups where people would share tips on avoiding eating.
Her daughter’s Instagram page then became ‘flooded with images of excessively thin models, focusing on thigh gaps, bridge gaps, and clavicle bones.’
One of the diets that the first girl put herself on in 2017, after being targeted with recipes
While in the throes of the eating disorder, the Wuests’ daughter wrote this saddening note about how society made her feel a crippling need to be thin
The child depicted the pressure she felt to stay thin in drawings like this one
‘These are not terms CN searched for but, rather, content Meta’s recommendation system sent to her.
‘CN would open her Explore page and the content was simply there, in mind blowing volumes,’ the lawsuit claims.
Her daughter’s Instagram page then became flooded with images of excessively thin models, focusing on thigh gaps, bridge gaps, and clavicle bones
‘Meta’s social media product pushed 12-year-old CN down a dangerous rabbit hole, which design defects Meta had full knowledge of but failed to correct based on determinations that these design defects were more profitable for Meta if left in place,’ the girl’s mother’s attorney says.
At the start of the seventh grade, CN joined her school’s swim team.
Her mother describes how she thought swimming would burn most calories, which was why she chose it as a sport.
When the swimming season stopped, she turned to Instagram for tips on how to keep the weight off.
Alex Martin also received help and is at a healthier weight. She is shown with her family
‘Around this same time, Instagram’s algorithms and related technologies began pushing extreme exercise content and recommending user groups—which she joined as a result—focused on extreme exercise and eating disorders
‘Meta sent CN recommendations to eating disorder themed pages and groups. Meta also sent CN recommendations for “friends” who were, in fact, adult Instagram users either suffering from these mental health issues themselves or using the Instagram product to find and exploit young girls; and, likewise, Meta recommended CN to these same types of adult users, who then sought to connect with her,’ the lawsuit says.
In April 2018, CN’s periods stopped. She kept it from her mother, but told the Instagram community she had become part of. They congratulated her, telling her she was doing ‘something right’.
Later that year, CN was shopping with her mother and nearly fainted.
When they went for dinner, she was ‘panicked’ that her mother had chosen a restaurant that did not display the calorie count of each meal on its menu.
The family sought treatment for her, but over the next four years CN attempted suicide twice.
She was hospitalized multiple times and forced onto a feeding tube.
Alexandra’s parents claim she was perfectly happy with her figure until she started using the app, but that she quickly shed 20lbs after having images of statuesque models shoved in front of her every day.
Their allegations against Instagram compound the widely-held view that the app is harming young girls’ health.
A Facebook whistleblower admitted as much last year.
But the social media giant has not changed its algorithm to deter young girls from such problems.
This week, it is under fire for being too forceful in pushing content it thinks users will enjoy, rather than showing them the chronological posts of their chosen followers.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk