Article: Instagram rated worst media for mental health

I came across this article online following seeing this reported on Sky News on the TV. I found this really relevant to my research to date, research topic and FMP.

The article discusses how Instagram has been classified as the worst app for mental health issues in young people, with Snapchat (another photo based app) coming second. I found this really interesting due to the gazes which are involved with such platforms, and how one can show themselves in a way that embodies how they want to be perceived, only showing parts of their lives which they want to share, and only sharing images which they are happy with when they look how they want to be seen, choosing what is on show to the public for judgements, praise and criticism alike.

1500 people voted from the UK alone, (between 14-24, therefore embodying my chosen target audience for my magazine of 18-24 year olds) stating that it damages their sleep patterns, body image issues, anxieties, depression, loneliness through living in a digital age and a ‘fear of missing’ out through seeing friends live their lives in ways that they may not themselves. This being said though, one can choose what they post, and may choose to curate their feed to ‘look like they have a great life’ when it retrospect they could feel depressed, anxious or lonely themselves.

In addition, and to my surprise, the majority said that positives were self-identity and self-expression, which upon further thought actually does make sense depending on how you perceive and use the app. As there are no constraints it is possible to express yourself through images and relate to similar uses which help with ones identity, however on the flip slide this could also be negative if one is constantly comparing oneself to another, causing social identity issues as discussed by Tajfel and Turner (1986), whereby in-group and out-group comparisons co-exist.

Furthermore, Rose’s “Semiology: Laying bare the prejudices beneath the smooth surface of the beautiful” (2012) book, looks at the relationship between Panopticism as founded by Foucault, and the ideology that people depict scenarios and images through photography which are often seen and recognised as ‘real’ opposed to a set up scenario, just like as discussed above in regard to Instagram and how photos can be interpreted to allow one to feel misled or as though they are missing out on a social occasion for example. This shows one how one can be influenced by imagery from social media, and how this could possibly affect ones self-perception, and the perception of others alike, as well as self-esteem and identity issues. This in turn causing a tutored sense of self, relating back to Shields and Heineken’s ‘Self-Surveying/Internalised Gaze’ theory as discussed heavily in my research during Semester 1, and Tajfel and Turner’s (1986) social identity model as discussed above, and researched in Semester 2.

I feel that these visual platforms are being recognised too late for their flaws, especially since the rise of beauty and fashion bloggers, allowing for many followers and aspiring bloggers to feel inadequate when they do not achieve the same status. In addition, Instagram has very little censoring so images of really thin models for example, can be posted with any caption or hashtags which could potentially be damaging to some depending on how these are perceived.

The following article has been taken from Sky News, and can be found here.

Last accessed: 19th May 2017.

Instagram has been rated the worst social media site for young people’s mental health, according to a survey.

The platform has the most negative impact on users and puts them at risk of suffering loneliness, depression and body image anxiety, the Royal Society for Public Health has warned.

Their words come following a survey of almost 1,500 people in the UK aged 14 to 24 which asked them to score each social media platform on its effect on health and wellbeing.

The respondents were asked to consider issues including access to expert information, emotional support, anxiety, depression, sleep, self-expression, body image, community building and bullying.

Instagram was rated the most negatively, followed by Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and then YouTube.

Instagram was rated badly for seven of the 14 measures: its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out, bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness.

But those surveyed did say there were positives – self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored badly for its impact on sleep but was ranked well in nine other categories, including awareness and understanding of other people’s health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive, of the RSPH, said: “It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.

“As the evidence grows that there may be potential harms from heavy use of social media, and as we upgrade the status of mental health within society, it is important that we have checks and balances in place to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and wellbeing.”

Dr Becky Inkster, honorary research fellow, University of Cambridge, said: “Young people sometimes feel more comfortable talking about personal issues online.

“As health professionals we must make every attempt to understand modern youth culture expressions, lexicons, and terms to better connect with their thoughts and feelings.”

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told The Guardian: “I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.

“We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media – good and bad – to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world.

“There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.”

Instagram’s website says it has more than 600 million active monthly users.

Sky News has approached Instagram for a response.

Other sources:

Rose (2012) Semiology: Laying bare the prejudices beneath the smooth surface of the beautiful, p.107-121.

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