Is Instagram Bad for your Mental Health?

Researchers in the UK have reason to believe it might be. In 2017, the Royal Society for Public Health partnered with the Young Health Movement to create their #StatusofMind report.

The organizations surveyed almost 1,500 young people ages 14-24 in the UK about their use of five major social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Youtube. Their goal was to uncover how participants felt each of these platforms impacted their health—both positively and negatively. Participants were also asked to make comparisons between platforms, and provide their opinions on a number of proposed policy initiatives.

Survey respondents were asked to rate the platforms’ effects on certain factors such as sleep, depression, community building, and emotional support from -2 (a lot worse) to +2 (a lot better). The results showed that Instagram was most detrimental to mental health. According to respondents, Instagram use negatively impacted body image, sleep, bullying, and created fear of missing out (FOMO).

And recently, it seems as though Instagram execs are taking these criticisms to heart. Earlier this month, word spread that the social media platform has created a “Wellbeing Team.” According to Eva Chen, director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, “[the team’s] entire focus is focusing on the well-being of the community. Making the community a safer place, a place where people feel good, is a huge priority.”

This sounds good in theory, but so far Instagram has been pretty tight-lipped about what the team will actually do. In late 2017, the company announced a few measures to “keep Instagram a safe and positive place for self-expression.” They introduced comment controls to block offensive comments, anonymous reporting for live videos if users see someone in need of support during a live video, and a “can we help?” feature for users searching dangerous hashtags.

As far as concerns about body image, sleep, and FOMO, users are on their own—at least for now. Researchers behind the #StatusofMind report have some pretty good suggestions. The first is a pop-up which would alert users when they have reached a level of usage on apps like Instagram that is potentially harmful. They also suggest that social media platforms such as Instagram label photos of people that have been digitally manipulated via a watermark or small icon at the bottom of the photo.

So far, Instagram hasn’t responded to either of these suggestions. While the Wellbeing team gets to work, the immediate solution seems to be to limit your Instagram use. If nothing else you’ll have a little more sleep, a few less body image concerns, and a lot less FOMO.

Written By: Kara Cuzzone

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