Last week it was announced that Instagram and Snapchat were ranked the worst apps for children’s mental health. Following Mental Health Awareness Week, there’s no wonder that social platforms such as Instagram are causing people to develop mental health issues. When you can filter, crop and completely alter your images to make them look as picture-perfect as possible it is of no surprise that people are going to start to feel that their lives, bodies, or even room decor are inferior to those profiles they spend hours trolling through each day.
I say this even though I know full well I’m guilty of it myself. But we can’t help it. As consumers in the digital age we’re infatuated and obsessed with the likes of Instagram and Snapchat and this won’t slow down any time soon. In fact, it is only going to get worse.
Uploading pictures to Instagram is like individually editing photos for adverts but for ourselves. It’s self-marketing, so of course you’re going to want to look your best, right? But in doing so, we’re also at the risk of fuelling a mental health crisis.
So, what can we do to stop this? If Instagram is the worst culprit, should we start there? I personally think there is a wider education job to be done. For instance, is it going to come to the point where we start teaching ‘social media education’ in schools like sex-ed, to warn youngsters of the dangers of seeing other people’s ‘beach body ready’ photos and obsessing over themselves even more?
In response, public health professionals are now “calling for a three-point plan to be enacted to head-off these trends; including pop-up warnings when people overuse social media; actively identifying users who may have a problem and ‘discreetly’ signposting support and tagging images which have been digitally manipulated.” Whilst the sentiment might be there, alarms bells do start to ring. Are we going to start being told by Big Brother when ‘they’ think we’ve been using social media too often? Might this be wavering on suffocation and mark just another means of control?
Despite concerns of heavy usage, in this piece on The Drum, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) says that these social media platforms can also be used for good (obviously) but that “far more effort is needed to be invested in policing to flag up problem users“. But the positive points of use are there, for example, a clean eating craze (think, Joe Wicks). Getting people to proactively want to go out and buy healthy foods to cook varied meals, whilst becoming increasingly proactive about what they should be eating can only be a good thing, right?