Lately, social media has faced intense scrutiny on the grounds of privacy concerns, content ownership, and mental health implications. Multiple studies have revealed the potential negative consequences of prolonged social media usage on one’s psychological well-being.
With social media being a breeding ground for bullying, gaslighting, loneliness, and exclusion, it’s no surprise that users are now seeking modifications from these online platforms to mitigate these risks. Although it’s challenging to address all of these concerns, social media sites are taking steps to safeguard their users’ mental well-being by implementing new resources and regulations.
Here are some of the most notable ones:
Materials Endorsed by Professionals
Online communities are actively contributing towards battling mental health disorders by offering users access to meticulously curated resources, backed by professionals. With the onset of the pandemic, nearly all of the major social media platforms have created a central database comprising relevant information and recommendations.
Instagram has now tackled the concerns surrounding negative body image issues that have garnered much criticism, by launching a sequence of tools, approved by professionals, to assist individuals grappling with eating disorders and closely related problems. Upon detecting user searches for terms related to eating disorders or the sharing of such material, this central hub delivers a trove of hotlines, counselling services, and comprehensive information.
Facebook introduced mental health resources this year, aiming to augment the existing content in the Emotional Health Resource Center. These updates feature global mental health recommendations and advice from the World Health Organization, in addition to resources from various organizations worldwide that can assist with stress, sadness, and anxiety.
‘Compassionate Search’, a search tool catering to mental well-being resources, was introduced by Pinterest in 2023. Initially unveiled for users in the US, it was later made available globally. This feature pops up in search results when users type in keywords related to stress, anxiety, or sadness, providing them with links to beneficial resources.
TikTok and Snapchat have devised unique sets of tools of their own. TikTok has developed fresh tools that connect users to communities that address concerns such as low self-esteem and eating disorders. Snapchat, for their part, offers an array of resources under ‘Here for You’, intended to provide proactive assistance within the app to individuals grappling with mental health issues.
Data is Not the Only Solution
As one might expect, users demand more than just access to data from social media platforms. People await from social media companies stricter regulations and tighter control measures to tackle prevalent issues, as these platforms are ultimately responsible for what happens on their platforms and to their users. Encouragingly, social media platforms are gradually introducing exciting new features to address these problems.
In 2023, TikTok implemented a feature that allows users to set their own daily screen time limits. Upon exceeding their allotted time, the user receives notifications on their feed, as a reminder. Although social media platforms often strive to enhance user engagement, this kind of reminder is not yet widely adopted.
Snapchat has enhanced its in-app reporting functions to enable users to easily report any apprehensions about the safety of other Snapchat users from possible self-harm. Upon receiving such a notification, the platform actively provides any necessary assistance to the affected user.
The importance of regulation when it comes to mental health in the digital sphere is crucial. Therefore, Instagram has instituted stricter sanctions for those who use hate speech or send offensive messages, such as permanent deactivation of their accounts. Furthermore, Instagram has granted users the ability to manage their Direct Messages more effectively and to filter out comments from undesirable sources.
Facebook and Snap have embraced distinct approaches to aid those battling mental health issues. To support this goal, these platforms have created video series directed at individuals facing mental health challenges. Peace of Mind with Taraji, a new Facebook Watch talk show hosted by Taraji P. Henson, explores a variety of topics related to mental health. Meanwhile, Snapchat has produced a docuseries titled Mind Yourself, starring Kevin Hart.
Lastly, social media platforms are collaborating with mental health charities to help raise crucial funds. Pinterest, for instance, has pledged to donate $10 million to back mental health organizations in the following year. The first beneficiary of this funding is the non-profit group #HalfTheStory, which aims to raise awareness regarding the impact of social media on mental well-being. Although less actively involved, Twitter has cooperated with the Cross-Government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred to better understand ways to combat hate speech on the platform.
Relentless Endeavours Required
Undoubtedly, the existing pandemic has had a profound impact on social media, prompting companies to take action on mental health. While the measures and new features introduced are praiseworthy, they are not enough to address the underlying problems associated with social media usage.
It is evident that much more must be accomplished before we can significantly diminish the impact of social media on mental health. Thus, it is crucial that we continue to engage actively with these platforms and advocate for the necessary changes to make everyone feel safe when using these services. It is only by doing so that we can ensure a future in which social media can be enjoyed without jeopardizing our well-being.