Anderson Cooper on Instagram: I feel worse, I can’t imagine what teens feel

I have mixed feelings about social media due to my age and some of the horror stories I’ve read. While I love to check in with the people I’ve met online, I’m sometimes left with feelings of inadequacy. And it turns out, I’m not alone. Anderson Cooper expressed the same thoughts on his show, 360 with Anderson Cooper. He was speaking with his guest Jennifer Gryglel, an associate professor of communications at Syracuse University. Recent testimony by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen has brought more attention to how Instagram negatively affects teen body image and self esteem. Anderson said that while he enjoyed the sites he frequented, he often felt worse about his own life. And if he, an adult, felt that way, he can’t imagine what an insecure teen feels.

“What we’re seeing on Instagram is an imminent threat to teenagers. I am seeing self-harm,” Jennifer (Gryglel) said on the program. “I’m talking about starvation… teenagers cutting themselves.”

“I’m on Instagram and I enjoy it. I follow friends and look at art sites and things like that,” Anderson said, but then added, “But I gotta say, it depresses me. I mean, I leave feeling worse than when I got on.”

He continued, “I feel worse about my own life, I cannot imagine what a teenager feels. I mean, I’m supposedly an adult. What some kid feels looking at other people’s lives and how their lives seem much more exciting than their own.”

[From Just Jared]

As I have said before, what Anderson is talking about is exactly why I left Facebook. (Eliminating all the toxic misinformation with it was just a bonus.) But I really felt bad about myself while scrolling through my friends lives. I know people tend to post their best days, but I still couldn’t convince myself my life was equal to theirs. I tended to focus on parenting, about which I am insecure anyway. I was left feeling woefully inadequate as a mother every time. It happens on Instagram but I’ve gotten better about logging off when I need to. I don’t have to worry about comments. I rarely get them and when I do, they are almost always nice. (Thank you to my IG followers – you’re the best!) So I believe Anderson. Even with his money, fantastic blue eyes, famous family, exciting job, gorgeous homes and fancy friends, I’m sure even he gets depressed on Instagram.

The comments Jennifer Gryglel made about the threats to teenagers – man. I’m sorry to be a broken record but I don’t know how teens cope today.

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Photo credit: Instagram

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21 Responses to “Anderson Cooper on Instagram: I feel worse, I can’t imagine what teens feel”

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  1. Becks1 says:

    I think Instagram is worse for the whole “makes me feel worse about my life” aspect. I don’t even know why I’m on Facebook at this point – I like updates from friends about their lives I guess? And I do like getting my news updates there – from sources like NPR, WaPo, NYT, etc.

    I do think IG is easier to navigate in that I just set myself to “followers only” and I’m not worried about all the privacy settings etc as much. But I do follow a lot of lifestyle bloggers and people like that and while I KNOW that Emily Schuman from Cupcakes and Cashmere works hard and doesn’t always look like that, sometimes I seeing pics of her with her cheese boards and pretty glass of wine on her back porch and I think…….my life is kind of sad, lol.

    And I think IG is worse for people only showing the “highlights” of their lives and honestly at this point it annoys me rather than makes me jealous, because it does seem so fake to me, or I know the backstory so I can’t look at the pictures the same way .

    I dunno. Social media can be good – I follow a lot of local stores and they use social media a lot for promotion etc, but its also so toxic for many reasons. I keep thinking I’m going to try deleting at least one SM account and I never do.

    At least I’m not on TikTok so there’s that.

    • Kkat says:

      I actually like Tiktok better, with their algorithm you can really focus your account to the stuff you want to see.
      I look at funny animals, crafts, baking, cooking, food prepping, cake decorating, glass blowing, all kinds of art stuff .
      you can waste a lot of time on it because it’s easy to just scroll, and the video shorts range from 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
      But I usually feel pretty happy on it and after ive been on it. Unlike Facebook (horrible) and Insta (Not as bad as facebook)

      • Golly Gee says:

        On one of the Reply All podcasts, they were talking about the Tiktok algorithm and how scary accurate and specific it is in honing in on what you want to see.

  2. Ariel says:

    I’ve been off Facebook for awhile because it is evil. But I still enjoy Instagram. But maybe I am using it differently.
    I follow friends – who barely post, not many people use it anymore, a few celebs but not particularly glamorous ones – more like comedians, Buffy the vampire slayer devotees and 80s pop culture accounts.
    I enjoy it. But none of it makes me feel lesser or as of I’m missing out or not good enough.

  3. Twin falls says:

    It’s not like teenagers are known for their self control and then we hand them this addictive experience they can access 24/7…

    I worry about their mental health.

    • BrainFog 💉💉😷 says:

      As do I. Very much, actually. Growing up is so hard to begin with, and to have this toxicity and unnecessary & insane (perceived) expectations added on top.. phew. I am very, very worried for future generations. We had it so much easier.

  4. Eating Popcorn says:

    I left FB because of all the toxic stuff – people I thought were normal humans were just rabid on FB and I’m talking about middle-aged lady “my manicure is sooo bad, don’t go to this place” and I traveled like an innocent over to Twitter where all the toxic political things were happening – I left twitter now I scroll Insta but I feel as if it needs to go too. I do like the local shops and highlights from restaurants, etc… but I think I will be leaving soon.

    • Esmom says:

      I agree, I feel like what was once good about FB has evolved into a toxic waste dump. My friends barely post and most of what I see comes from the pages of businesses and community orgs, which can be found elsewhere. Worst is the blatant right wing talking points and disinformation that old classmates post with zero critical thought behind anything they just mindlessly slap up there. The likes that they get for memes like “All we need to do is bring God back into schools” just kills me.

      I don’t mind Twitter because I feel like it’s still the best place to go for breaking news and to follow journalists and writers. The discourse to me is a little more intelligent than FB’s brand of ignorance.

      I scroll Insta to follow foster kittens and its kinda nice but even that has lost its appeal to me. I think of all the kids and teens who are made to feel excluded and inadequate every day as they scroll and it hurts my heart.

      • SomeChick says:

        I never see that stuff because I unfriend and/or block with a quickness. those people aren’t my friends, so they can post as much garbage as they like and none of it affects me because I don’t see it. mean people, toxic people, Qnspiracy theorists… b’bye!

  5. ReginaGeorge says:

    I feel like IG is worse than FB ever was in the sense that people use FB to post how they feel and sometimes it’s not too great and they use it to reach out to folks for some support or kind words. It’s not always about pictures. The ease and ability to spread disinfo, however, is a big problem.

    IG however, is a LOT more superficial. All filtered and face-tuned faces and bodies, lots of stunting for the ‘Gram, lots of posturing in general.

    My daughter is in her early 20′s and she and a few friends have already gotten botox, brow lifts and fillers because they want to look like all the filtered, manipulated faces on IG. They basically spent all of their teen years on it and now have been somewhat brainwashed to think this is how we are supposed to look and anything less than that is unattractive. I was heartbroken when I found this out, and when they came over one night, I had to sit them down and tell them that real human faces have pores, naso-labial folds, even some”11′s” and forehead wrinkles sprinkled in when you scrunch your face or show emotion, and it doesn’t make you ugly or old. It’s just natural. Real bodies have hip dips, and those unnaturally rounded Kardashian hips look ridiculous. Not everyone needs huge lips to be pretty. Imperfections can make you uniquely beautiful. Not like these homogenous faces you see now.

    None of those girls are older than 23. The youngest is 19! It’s really sad what I see.

    • Milygu says:

      That is really sad. I hope your daughter and her friends really listened to what you had to say. I’m sure they are beautiful as they are, and it’s heartbreaking that they can’t see it.

    • Esmom says:

      Oh yikes, I am sorry to hear about your daughter and her friends feeling like they need to change their undoubtedly lovely selves. I’m so glad you sat down with them. I have two boys in college so they haven’t been affected by IG the same way you describe, although I do know that it did at times engender feelings that they were missing out on some ideal teen life that their classmates were always posting about. I had to remind them that everyone is going through something and that life is not what they see on IG. I think they mostly got the message as their digital socializing seems to involves group chats these days more than anything else.

    • Christine says:

      It helps nothing when reality stars are constantly saying that “botox is preventative!!!!” (looking at you, Vanderpump Rules/Housewives casts). I’m not sure why teens are missing that Lala Kent, and the rest, can’t form their face into an expression that resembles being a human being, and it’s all-around horrible.

  6. Liz says:

    I left Facebook years ago for the same reasons as everyone else.

    I have an Instagram that I started as a way to keep tabs on my teenager and now just use to follow some yarn dyers and designers (yes, I’m a knitter). I’ll keep it for that purpose – how else am I going to know that my favorite independent dyer three time zones away is dropping some new colorways?

    As for the 17 year old and Instagram. It’s hard to parent, under the best of circumstances and Instagram is everywhere. I try to keep open lines of communication and realize that the actual people they are spending time with have more influence than strangers on the internet. I know my kid’s friends and many of their parents. I have the passcode for their phone (part of the deal because I pay the bills) so I can look, I just can’t remember the last time I did. So far, we’re doing OK (it helps that I have a DnD nerd). At the moment, the college application process is causing more stress than anything else.

  7. TeamMeg says:

    I struggled with bulimia for about a decade, from late teens till late 20s. During my college years (early 80′s) not many people had yet heard bulimia (if you can imagine such a time) but anorexia and compulsive overeating (now binge eating disorder) were well known. In my sophomore year, I joined an eating disorder support group where I was the only person with my particular “condition”. I remember feeling appalled when one of the girls with BED told me gleefully that she had started throwing up, having heard about it from me. I tried to explain why this wasn’t any kind of solution for her problem, felt awful, and left the group shortly afterward.

    Like Anderson C, I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up now. Until I saw the magazine article where Jane Fonda admitted she’d had “bulimarexia” I thought I was the only one who compulsively overate and shamed myself further by purging to find relief. From Jane, I learned that I was not alone—an important step on my journey to recovery. But my college classmate found out about it from me, and tragically started doing it herself. Of course she had to join an in person support group for this exchange to happen. Today’s kids learn about all kinds of harmful coping mechanisms a thousand times more easily: at home, in the palm of their hand.

    In my day, we had skinny models and actresses to compare ourselves critically to. Kids today have the same… plus influencers, vloggers, Facebook, etc. The onslaught is mega-amplified; the problem is the same. Lack of self-love and self-confidence with an over-emphasis on appearance; under-valuing of all the wonderful non-physical traits, qualities and interests beyond one’s self that make a person whole and give meaning to life. How can we flip the focus and change the message?

    • local russian hill says:

      wonderful post. thank you for sharing and hope you are well now. i’ve been off facebook for seven years and i’m not on any social media. i don’t know how we flip the focus and change the message but i agree it needs to happen.

  8. Desdemona says:

    I think everything online must be used adequatly. I have Facebook, post landscapes, funny jokes (Calvin and Hobbes strips for instance). I keep in touch with my friends, and follow some interesting sites. That’s it. Both me and my friends don’t post our lives all over the internet.
    I avoid toxic websites, ignore the idiots. The truth is that 99% of the people I follow on FB are quite supportive of one another, especially in rough times. Then, if we talk about vaccines and stuff: I’m proud to say that more than 85% of my country aged more than 12 is vaccinated, we’re the country more vaccinated in the world…. My policy is : If I don’t have anything nice to say, then I’ll keep quiet and ignore”…. My friends also think that…

  9. SarahCS says:

    There is clearly so much unhealthy and awful stuff out there, how can we help people disengage? Social media is what you make it.

    I love IG, I mostly follow cat accounts (occasional dog or other animal) along with some history accounts (historic England is fascinating), travel stuff oh and recently I’ve found some accounts that update on cool stuff like the supermarket in the Netherlands that now has ‘chat checkouts’ for lonely people where they can chat and not be rushed while their shopping is scanned.

  10. Jen says:

    I haven’t had a Facebook account for years and I’ve just permanently deleted my Instagram. I’ve always liked Instagram. I think it sucks for teenagers, and I hate that everyone is trying to sell something nowadays, whether it be physical products or just the idea of their perfect life…so much attention seeking! BUT if you’re an adult who just follows close friends/family and hobbies, it isn’t really a toxic platform. I do think Facebook as a company is horribly toxic, though, and this latest stuff has pushed me over the edge. I felt great after hitting that delete button. Now I just need to convince my overseas friends to move our group chat from WhatsApp to Signal so I can delete my WhatsApp account too.

  11. Monica says:

    I use Instagram to share my art projects, and I am very, very careful about who I follow. But I’m in my 60s and mostly impervious to FOMO. I can’t imagine what it’s like for younger people who use it primarily as a social outlet.

  12. ellie says:

    And feeling worse about your appearance/life is just ONE aspect.

    We should be talking more about how these deliberately addictive platforms are frying people’s brain health & ability to focus on anything.

    Which also leads to anxiety & depression.