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The Ethics of Instagram

Experiencing the academic pipeline from ideation to publication

Mentee Profile

An ambitious junior from an academically rigorous private school with a passion for ethics, Lauren was eager to take her intellectual engagement to the next level in a mentorship where she could conduct original research. With summer plans to take a philosophy class at Columbia while doing a tech internship, she hoped to complement these experiences with a mentorship that explored the ethical applications of technology today.

Mentee Goals

-Conduct a literature review on an ethical issue that is exacerbated by social media

-Design and run an original survey that explores possible solutions to this issue

-In extended sessions: Realize a full-length scientific article based on the analysis of her findings that could be submitted for publication.

Mentor Match

Lauren’s match was a psychology and social policy PhD student at Yale University working in the Crockett Lab, which studies the cognitive building blocks of human morality, including social learning, impression-making, moral judgment, empathy and decision-making.

His research specifically leveraged computational methods to explore the interactions between affective, moral, and political psychology and digital technologies.

Custom Curriculum

Skill Development

Gained firsthand experience of the academic pipeline from ideation through literature review, study design, analysis and final write-up; learned how to use essential tools like the Qualtrics platform for conducting surveys while learning how to use the Python 3 coding language and the Jupyter Notebook coding environment for data analysis. Completing her paper on a relevant, timely subject empowered her to believe in her scholarly abilities to make a real impact on the world at large.


To realize her ambitious goals, Lauren and her mentor divided their mentorship into several stages: first, she used for ideation and literature review, identifying the social issue she wanted to research and gaining familiarity with the subject. The next stage focused on survey design, implementation, and data analysis of her results. 

Her study findings coincided with a broader study that came out on a related topic leading to significant public and press interest in the role of social media in shaping body image. Lauren wanted to extend her mentorship with additional sessions so she could continue to dive deeper into her research and assemble her findings into a fully realized scientific paper.

Final Project

Lauren's final project—completed over the course of an extended mentorship—was an original scientific paper researching the topic of “Fitspo” and possible interventions that could target Instagram users' body-image and willingness to post certain types of content.


She designed and implemented a survey that tested the efficacy of competing interventions designed to reduce negative self-esteem and body image beliefs following engagement with “fitspo” content. In her online study, she tested the impact of different types of moral messages or “nudges” on the self-esteem and body image beliefs of male and female Instagram users who encounter Fitspo content.


Completing this original study required: running her own psychological survey through the online platform Qualtrics, and recruiting participants through Prolific, while learning about necessary features of such design, including consent forms, randomization, and demographic measures. Then, to make sense of her findings, she also learned how to use the Python programming language for data analysis.


Lauren then compiled her literature review, study, and findings into a final academic paper, which she was able to submit and successfully publish in a student academic journal.


Students self-reported large gains in:

 Readiness for college-level work


Increased academic self-confidence


Learning to work independently


Research skills


Technical skills


Enhancement of ability to problem-solve


Accomplishing a personal goal

Vist project website

OTHER Case studies

Website on body positivity offering resources for schools looking to add body image literacy to their health curricula

A paper and presentation proposing a new framework for civic engagement at the high-school level

Original magazine about sustainable fashion, with articles on ethical and ecological issues and a unique research-based sustainability rating scale for fashion retailers

View all case studies


Hugo has run hundreds of mentorships across dozens of fields.  Each of them are unique and designed around the students background, goals and interests.  Below are some of the final projects students developed during their mentorships.

View projects