Instagram Unveils New Tools That Could Save Lives

Instagram Unveils New Tools That Could Save Lives

The social network steps up its social responsibility game.

The social network steps up its social responsibility game.

Text: Jake Viswanath

As the popularity of social media keeps growing, the level of harassment and emotional abuse based on someone’s looks or opinions increases, especially on photo-centric networks like Instagram. These mean-spirited comments have contributed to social media users posting pleas for help, whether they’re going through an eating disorder or suicidal thoughts. Now, there’s something that we can do on Instagram itself to try and stop these patterns.

Instagram is rolling out new tools implemented within the app that enables users to anonymously report a post if we see someone post an image that signals a need of support. When that user logs back in, he or she will see a message that reads "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.” That friend can then access direct links to support systems, including helpline numbers, encouraging tips, and a suggestion to get in touch with a trusted friend. They also have the option to dismiss the post in the case of any discomfort or hesitancy.

Users will be prompted with the same options if they often search for troubling hash-tags like #imnotok and others that signal self-harm. Instagram has also completely banned select hashtags from their system, such as #thinspo, preventing any results from showing up when you search them on the community page.

"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,” Instagram COO Marne Levine said in a statement. “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."

Instagram worked with national support groups, like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, as well as several people who have dealt with eating disorders and suicidal thoughts to create these new tools, taking precise care to use the right language and tone. While it’s not a perfect solution, the new features are an important step in the right direction which shows that social networks are willing to take action to combat online harassment.

Credits: Photo: Instagram

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