Editors note: CC Connected guest columnist and junior student Bridget Hogan from the Robert W. Plaster School of Business recently penned the insightful commentary below on the benefits of social media and mental health.
By Bridget Hogan
When most people think of social media, they don’t think of it as a benefit to your mental health. There have been many studies linking social media to anxiety, depression, isolation, and the fear of missing out.
Recently, a study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that social media use is linked to mental distress, self-harm, and suicide. The study also found that while using social media for more than two hours a day, higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts were associated with teenage girls. While these studies examine the bad sides of social media apps and usage, many people do not realize the tools that social media companies have created to combat this complex and rising problem.
In July 2019, Pinterest introduced emotional wellness activities tailored to users searching for emotional health and related topics on the platform. To make the new program effective, Pinterest partnered with Brainstorm, the Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation, Vibrant Emotional Health, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Activities include deep-breathing exercises, self-compassion exercises, and more, which are meant for users when they feel anxious, sad, or stressed.
Shortly after the company’s emotional wellness roll-out, Pinterest stepped up in the fight against fake news. The company focused on preventing the spread of dangerous misinformation regarding vaccines. Pinterest blocked anti-vaccination searches on its platform by simply showing error pages that read, ” Pins about this topic often violate our Community Guidelines, which prohibit harmful medical misinformation.” Ifeoma Ozoma, Pinterest’s lead for partnerships on the community’s public policy and social impact team, said that “people come to our platform to find inspiration, and there is nothing inspiring about harmful content.”
Instagram recently took an approach to attack the complex issue of cyberbullying on its platform. In October 2019, the company rolled out ‘Restrict’ mode. Restrict mode allows account owners to shadowban users who comment on photos with offensive or abusive language. In an Instagram blog, the company stated that “comments on your posts from a person you have restricted will only be visible to that person.” People will still have the ability to see the comments by tapping on a message that appears since the person is not completely blocked. Account owners will have the ability to approve comments from restricted people to make them public to everyone, delete the comment, or just ignore it.
On February 11, 2020, Snapchat introduced a new tool called ‘Here For You.’ The tool is meant to be a resource that can answer questions about topics like anxiety or depression directly in the app when users search them. Here For You works as a healthy alternative to meme accounts or a ‘No Results’ page when users want more information. The purpose of this new feature is to protect the 90% of U.S. 13- to 24-year olds that use the app. Here For You is styled like all other programming on Snapchat; short, 10-second clips that users can tap through to learn more.
Social media has its benefits. There are resources to help those struggling and ways to cope with anxiety and stress. As always, there are more mental health resources than these, but these are few that can be of use to someone.