Companies do a lot to get attention on social media — from cringe-y brand Twitter accounts posting about Taylor Swift to incessant Instagram stories. But after Facebook’s own research showed that Instagram is bad for the health of young people, Lush decided to quit social media all together.
The cosmetics company shut down its Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok accounts on Friday. Lush’s chief executive, Mark Constantine, said the decision to get rid of its accounts came because of the deep problems the company’s seen with safety on social media.
“I’ve spent all my life avoiding putting harmful ingredients in my products. There is now overwhelming evidence we are being put at risk when using social media,” Constantine said in a statement. “I’m not willing to expose my customers to this harm, so it’s time to take it out of the mix.”
This comes as Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, faces accusations of putting the financial success of its platforms before the health and safety of its users. In September, the Wall Street Journal published a series of reports called “The Facebook Files.” In those reports, we learned — thanks to leaked internal Facebook documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen — that Facebook knew Instagram was harmful to the health of young people, and didn’t share that information with the public.
That was a step too far for Lush, as Constantine bluntly explained to The Guardian. “We’re talking about suicide here, not spots or whether someone should dye their hair blonde,” he told the UK paper. “How could we possibly suggest we’re a caring business if we look at that and don’t care?”
Haugen testified in front of the Senate just days before Facebook’s online services shut down for nearly six hours when, the company claimed, an update to its routers went awry (via NPR). Since then, more documents, dubbed the “Facebook Papers,” have leaked, showing an apparent continued disregard for the health of Facebook’s users on the part of the company. In the days following these revelations, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the Meta re-brand alongside a plan to build and lead its version of the metaverse, which is an interconnected set of experiences in a new online world.
None of those steps deterred Lush, however, which took the step of exiting social media only after all of the above had played out and in spite of any financial risk. “We’ve tightened up over the Covid period, [the lost potential profits] won’t destroy us,” Constantine said. “I just thought ‘That’s their own research and they’re ignoring it and we are attracting people to their platform.’ We had no choice whatsoever. Lush attracts an awful lot of girls of that age.”
It’s especially notable, too, that the company decided to stop its use of social media during one of the busiest weekends for shopping all year — Black Friday, and the following Cyber Monday. Lush, which is based in the UK, estimates a £10 million loss as a result of the move. But Constantine said it was worth it.
“In the same way that evidence against climate change was ignored and belittled for decades, concerns about the serious effects of social media are going largely ignored now.”