06 November 2016

Social Media is everywhere. You can't escape it. The little blue bird, the square rainbow and the blue and white 'F' are on billboards (yes, believe it or not, they still exist), bus stops, tv screens, adverts on the radio, in newspapers and magazines and just about every other place that you could possibly conceive. I am also certain that in the not too distant future, we will be able to wear glasses/contact lenses that will give us a direct feed to our social media channels and adverts will be personalised based on what we look at (think Minority Report).
But social media is great, why are you making it seem like it's such a bad thing Rich?!

Is this the future of social media and mental health?

For millions of people around the world, waking up and browsing social media is a daily occurrence. Scrolling your Twitter feed, skimming through Facebook, replaying funny Snapchat stories and looking on in wonder at all of those scenic pics on Instagram is rule #101 on how to function in the millennial era. We all do it and there is no shame. However, for some people, the urge to stay on these various social media platforms and compare your own life to what you see on the screen is inescapable. Instagram is probably the worst culprit for this because you can see and read what other people are doing.
Am I having as much fun as them? Why doesn't my life look as good as theirs does? How are they able to be so happy when I feel like this? Will I ever visit the beautiful places I see in their pictures? Why can't I smile like them?
Questions like these are bound to pop into anyone's head but the unfortunate difference is that for some of us, they are unshakeable and will revolve around and around, making us believe our lives are lacking in comparison. When you suffer from a mental illness, this can have an adverse affect and be even more detrimental to your overall health and wellbeing. It can lead to us feeling worthless, unimportant and insignificant. But the people behind these apps are paying attention. They're realising that mental health and the stigma that surrounds it needs to be broken down and that people need support. Instagram is the latest social media app to make some changes and they've included a new feature that will help support those in need. From now on, your friends on Instagram can flag a post when they think that the person needs some help. The person will then receive a message that reads, "Someone saw on of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we'd like to help.". When they have received this message, they will see various options of ways to access help.
In a quote from Instagram's Chief Operating Officer, Marne Levine, from an interview with Seventeen, their policy is clear, "We listen to mental health experts when they tell us that outreach from a loved one can make a real difference for those who may be in distress. At the same time, we understand friends and family often want to offer support but don’t know how best to reach out. These tools are designed to let you know that you are surrounded by a community that cares about you, at a moment when you might most need that reminder.".
This is a fantastic step from a hugely popular social media app in helping to reduce mental health stigma whilst simultaneously trying to help people in a time of need. In addition, some hashtags that are associated with self-harm will be banned whilst those that are still searchable will have support options available.

We'd love to know...
Do you think these features are something that will be beneficial or helpful?
[Leave a comment]

Written by Rich Taylor
for Daily Focal


  1. This is the best thing that I've read in a while. It makes me so happy that a massive company has taken the step towards helping those of us with mental health issues. I really do hope that other social media sites follow in their footsteps. Good on you Instagram!

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