Normally, I’m not on board when my social media apps update themselves. I generally hate change, and it carries over into my use of social media. I hated when Snapchat took away best friends and automatically played the next My Story, wasn’t too thrilled when Twitter changed from “favorite” to “like” for tweets, and could have done without Facebook “switching over” to a completely separate app for messages. Dramatic, I know. But I hate the change without my consent. However, I am fully on board with Instagram’s newest feature on their update.
Social media carries such a negative connotation. While it’s a great place to stay easily connected with people, it also serves as a breeding ground for false perceptions of happiness and success. I always talk about how social media is like a highlight reel; others only post what you want them to see. However, this is very easily forgotten when scrolling through your timeline full of Tweets, pictures, and statuses all with the intention of showcasing everyone’s best selves and moments. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome to see how well people are doing. But, you can get caught up in the moment and truly believe your life sucks compared to those you have on social media.
Mental illness is a very serious, very real thing. And, social media often does not do much in the way of alleviating anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and many other invisible battles that people fight every single day. It’s not always easy for people living with a mental illness to open up and talk about what’s going on. However, Instagram is opening up the conversation with their newest feature.
There have been many times where I have seen posts from people that seem alarming or concerning, but have failed to reach out to the person who posted it. The failure on my part to connect was for many reasons, including feeling as if I didn’t know the person well enough or wondering of they would be offended by me if I were wrong. I know these are excuses, but I cant be the only one who has hesitated to reach out. Instagram must have sensed this too, and now users will be able to anonymously flag any post they see that makes them think someone may need help. Once you flag a post, an anonymous message is sent to the user, saying, “Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.” (source) This is then followed up with resources and information in regards to moving forward with help and support. Instagram is working with organizations like National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in order to create these messages. They have also banned most hashtags and trending topics that have to do with self-harm, and provide pop-up messages that offer support when they are searched for.
While this may not seem like much to people who do not suffer from mental illness, I can assure you that reaching out and connecting with someone who is struggling can make a huge difference. What Instagram is doing adds a human element to the otherwise fully digital world of social media. They are creating a pathway for people to reach out to one another in a supportive way and providing resources necessary for others to receive the help they need. This is taking a pro-active, rather than reactive, approach to helping people who may be struggling. As a huge supporter of mental health awareness, I believe this is beginning to open up the conversation for people who are dealing with mental illness, while taking steps to break down the stigma surrounding it and educating others who may not be as aware of what people struggle with.
So, thank you Instagram. I may hate the whole idea of “Insta-stories”, but I love this update.