Social media sites must address the mental health of their users

By Jared Sellick, Columnist
On May 14, 2019

In early May the photo-sharing network Instagram began to implement a trial in Canada that would ban viewers from seeing other user’s total number of ‘likes’.

This move was part of a greater initiative to protect the mental health of its users.

When loading the application, Instagram reminds the user that the change is because “We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your post gets.”

All users concerned with their mental well-being should welcome this potential change and encourage other social networks to experiment with similar measures.

User obsession over likes and follower counts are a well-documented global issue. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, social media addiction can lead to higher levels of depression and paranoia.

The addictive impact that likes have on the brain has been exploited by social media sites since their beginning. It seems that the concern for the mental well-being of their users is a rather new phenomenon.

According to the co-founder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, the implementation of ‘Instagram stories’  was a response to the user’s unhealthy fascination with likes.

The way in which many teenagers are growing up with an addiction to social media is not sustainable. If mental health is going to be a priority in our society it is important that we take the impact of these social networks seriously.

Simply removing likes as a motivating factor will make a huge difference in the ways that users use these networks. With these changes, young people will be less likely to feel inadequate compared to their peers.

Other social networks should follow Instagram’s lead and implement further changes that will curb the spread of social media addiction.

Reevaluating the way in which users can constantly scroll endlessly through a site is another way that you can limit social media addiction. In addition, social networks should abandon the practice of sending extraneous notifications to users.

If protecting mental health is a priority we as a society must seriously consider the business model of all social networks.

 

Jared Sellick is a junior majoring in political science.

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