Shut down Facebook for public health reasons?

Facebook has been in the news lately due to testimony at the Senate by Frances Haugen (imagine how much better off the company would be if they’d never hired him/her/zir/them!). From “Here are 4 key points from the Facebook whistleblower’s testimony on Capitol Hill” (NPR):

Haugen has leaked one Facebook study that found that 13.5% of U.K. teen girls in one survey say their suicidal thoughts became more frequent after starting on Instagram.

Another leaked study found 17% of teen girls say their eating disorders got worse after using Instagram.

About 32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse, Facebook’s researchers found, which was first reported by the Journal.

From Harvard’s McLean Hospital, “The Social Dilemma: Social Media and Your Mental Health”:

The platforms are designed to be addictive and are associated with anxiety, depression, and even physical ailments.

A 2018 British study tied social media use to decreased, disrupted, and delayed sleep, which is associated with depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance. Social media use can affect users’ physical health even more directly. Researchers know the connection between the mind and the gut can turn anxiety and depression into nausea, headaches, muscle tension, and tremors.

We’ve been willing to suspend or eliminate what had been considered fundamental and/or Constitutionally guaranteed rights in hopes of reducing the death rate tagged to COVID-19. Children couldn’t go to school for a year in American cities; adults couldn’t gather despite a First Amendment purportedly preventing the government from restricting their right to assemble. The potential loss of life-years from social-media-induced teen suicide is larger than whatever we might have saved via coronashutdowns (even if we assume that lockdowns and masks had some effect, COVID-19 was killing people at a median age of 82).

Why not declare that social media represents a public health emergency (Harvard re: racism as a public health crisis) and make Facebook, Instagram, et al. illegal in the U.S.? (order that ISPs block access to their IP addresses, accept a bit of leakage from Americans getting in via VPNs from the Free States of Russia, Scandinavia, etc., maybe require some FATCA-style rules so that companies are required to screen out American citizens regardless of VPN use)

Recent envy-provoking posts from Facebook friends… let’s call this one “I went to the Rolling Stones with friends while you were bored at home.”

Numerous “My kids are smiling, healthy, and happy, while yours are bratty, congested, and sulking” (variation: “My kid got into the elite college from which your kid was recently rejected”) and “I am on vacation somewhere beautiful while you are stuck at work wearing a mask 8 hours/day.”


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