In recent years the rate of young women committing suicide has climbed and reached a 40 year high as of 2015. And as of 2008 psychology today stated that the average teenager has as much anxiety today as a mental patient in the 1950s. A staggering 48 per cent of the general population suffers from anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. Or in some cases, a combination of all three.
In the last 50 years the presence of the media has become more prevalent through magazines, newspapers and most recently social media. The rise of social media and having it available 24/7 at your finger tips has given young people extreme anxiety, often over the belief that their life is not as good as everyone else’s. It’s not as much fun or as exciting as the lives of their Facebook friends. Also, because of Instagram influencers and models, an environment of affluence has created the expectation of a lifestyle that is not sustainable.
According to the Royal Society for Public Health, Instagram is the social media most likely to cause depression in teens. In a study of 1500 British young adults most associated Instagram with depression, anxiety and low self esteem. Snapchat was close by and was ultimately seen as the app most likely to make teens feel bullied or left out by their peers.
Instagram has reacted by stating that they are committed to trying to make Instagram a tool that can be used towards mental health. Michelle Napchan who is the head of Instagram’s policy went so far as to say “Keeping Instagram a safe and supportive place, where people feel comfortable expressing themselves, is our top priority – particularly when it comes to young people.”
Youtube was voted as the least harmful and the most positive space. The video sharing website was seen as a positive way to share self-expression and overall least harmful to other people.
Most psychological experts think that to understand the psyche of the modern teenager you must understand how social media effects them. Instagram has taken the first step to making Instagram a preventintve tool instead of an instigator of suicide. They have created the option of flagging content that might seem like the poster is going to self harm. When you do this a message will be sent to the user saying “Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you are having a hard time, if you need support we’d like to help.”
They have also started working with National Eating Disorder Association. Together they have implemented help and support messages from Instagram when users search banned and harmful tags like #thinspo. The pop up leads to a directory of helpful links, including helplines. Instagram has also implemented a filter on comments. So users can block offensive and derogatory terms. Facebook has launched an identical program and other social media sites have partnered with similar groups like tumblr and Pinterest.