The shocking decline of two happy, pre-teen girls after becoming obsessed with their weight and calorie intake is exposed in new photos today as their mothers sue Instagram, claiming the app prompted them to starve themselves and, in one case, , commit suicide .
Kentucky moms Candace Wuest and Alexandra Martin are suing Instagram’s parent company Meta in separate lawsuits filed Monday.
They claim the app targeted their daughters — and millions of other vulnerable girls — with calorie-restricting recipes, photos of skeletal models, and a fatal algorithm that pushed both to the top of the girls’ feeds.
In the case of Wuest’s daughter, she tried to take her own life after writing in letters about the crippling societal pressures to be thin and beautiful.
The problem didn’t stop when her parents sought treatment for it.
Instead, she “mastered” staying “just above hospital weight” and snuck out of her bedroom at 4 a.m. to exercise.
Their cases are the latest in a growing number of damning examples suggesting how the app is harming the mental health of young people, particularly impressionable teenage girls.
This 12-year-old girl from Kentucky, named CN in court documents, became obsessed with calorie-restricted diets on Instagram. She lost an amazing amount of weight in a single year and then tried to kill herself
Alex Martin, another girl from Kentucky, became so obsessed with being thin that she lost 20 pounds in three months. She’s shown at her lightest, after using Instagram for three months
Wuest’s daughter is only named as CN in the lawsuit.
It describes how they started scouring Instagram together for recipes in 2017, when CN was 12.
“In the beginning, CN used Instagram to communicate with her mother and find recipes. She often sent Candace recipes for exciting new foods — usually candies — that they would often make together. CN liked to look for new recipes.
Her daughter’s Instagram page was subsequently flooded with images of underweight models, focusing on thigh splits, bridge holes and collarbones.
“However, after a while she stopped sending prescriptions and became preoccupied with the idea that she had to be slim.
“By sixth grade, the prescriptions stopped completely,” the lawsuit says.
Soon, the 12-year-old was in groups where people would share tips on avoiding food.
Her daughter’s Instagram page was then “flooded with images of extremely thin models, with an emphasis on thigh splits, bridge holes and collarbones.”
“These aren’t terms that CN has searched for, but rather content that Meta’s recommendation system sent to her.
“CN would open its Explore page and the content was just there, mind blowing volumes,” the lawsuit alleges.
In April 2018, CN’s periods stopped. She hid it from her mother, but told the Instagram community she had become a part of. They congratulated her and said she was doing ‘something good’.
One of the diets the first girl did to herself in 2017, after being targeted by prescriptions
The girl illustrated her eating disorder as a sinister, skeletal demon with his arms around her during the meal
While she was gripped by the eating disorder, the Wuests’ daughter wrote this sad note about how society gave her a crippling need to be thin
The child depicted the pressure she felt to stay thin in drawings like this
Later that year, CN was shopping with her mother and nearly passed out.
When they went to dinner, she was “paniced” that her mother had chosen a restaurant that did not list the calorie count of each meal on the menu.
The family sought treatment for her, but CN attempted suicide twice over the next four years.
She was hospitalized several times and forced on a feeding tube.
Desperate for help for her daughter, Wuest took to Facebook support groups.
In a message, she said: “I believe she gets up at 4 in the morning and goes to the basement to exercise. She’s totally mastered keeping herself just above hospital weight.
“I’ve decided that if she doesn’t make a significant improvement from her Wednesday appointments, I’ll consider sending her to a treatment center and using her college savings plan to do it.” I don’t want her to struggle for the rest of her life and I don’t want this to ruin the rest of her life.”
At the beginning of the seventh, when she was 12, CN joined her school’s swim team.
Her mother describes how she thought swimming would burn the most calories, which is why she chose it as a sport.
When the swimming season came to an end, she turned to Instagram for tips on losing weight.
Alex Martin has also received help and is at a healthier weight. She is shown with her family
Around the same time, Instagram’s algorithms and related technologies began pushing extreme workout 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 basically adult Instagram users who either suffered from these mental health issues themselves or used the Instagram product to find and exploit young girls; and similarly, Meta recommended CN to the same types of adult users, who then tried to contact her,” the lawsuit says.
Alexandra’s parents claim that she was perfectly happy with her figure until she started using the app, but that she quickly lost 20 pounds after seeing images of stately models in front of her every day.
Their allegations against Instagram reinforce the widely held belief that the app harms the health of young girls.
A Facebook whistleblower admitted that last year.
But the social media giant has not changed its algorithm to deter young girls from such problems.
This week it has come under fire for being too forceful at pushing content it thinks users will enjoy, rather than showing them the chronological posts of their chosen followers.