Social media has come under fire recently, due to the publication of several studies suggesting their part in contributing to higher depression and suicide rates amongst teens and young adults. Fifty-nine percent of teens reported being the recipient of at least one of six types of abusive online behaviors – including cyberbullying – according to a recent Pew Research Center study and 16% reported being the subject of a physical threat of some kind after a fraught social media exchange.
A recent report published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology intimates that a collective mental decline in teens coincides with the popularity of smartphone use that began about seven years ago. “More U.S. adolescents and young adults in the late 2010s, versus the mid-2000s, experienced serious psychological distress, major depression or suicidal thoughts, and more attempted suicide,” says the study’s lead author, Jean Twenge, PhD – Twenge is also the author of the book “iGen” and a professor of psychology at San Diego State University.
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In an effort to diminish the kind of toxic elements that causes many users to feel insecure about their bodies and financial standing, Instagram has taken a determined effort to correct some of the inherently harmful aspects of its digital personality.
“Sometimes bad things happen on Instagram. We know that,” said Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram said at Facebook’s F8 developer conference. “We want to lead the fight against cyberbullying.”
The first step? Making the number of likes unavailable publicly. Likes can still be viewed privately, placing a greater emphasis on personal connections as opposed to the competitive aspect that has come to define the app in recent years. Adding to this, is this the “nudge” feature. If you’re typing out a comment that is deemed to be potentially aggressive, you will receive a “nudge”, asking you to reconsider your content. Mosseri hopes this will give users an extra incentive to stop and think about what they’re typing before they commit to it.
Of course, those who have the intention to be mean will not likely submit to an algorithm’s plea, so users might want to additionally consider the away mode, which frees you from notifications entirely.
Some critics have correctly pointed out that at the end of the day, large amounts of money are at play, meaning apps like Instagram and Facebook, can only strip so much away without risking losing many of the features that make them so popular in the first place. Unfortunately, a lot of the toxic characteristics of social media is what is staffing its success. Although the reaction to these preemptive measures has been mixed, a step toward regulating internet hate is certainly commendable.
“Better and faster handling of abuse reporting, watching and disciplining of offending users, gaining user trust so they will report cyberbullying and not fear reprisals or being ignored by Instagram is what will turn things around,” the StopCyberbullying Global director, told WSB-TV.
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