18 Powerful Photos That Need To Be Shared On Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

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Hills has seen the positive effects of Instagram communities  on her own clients, particularly, she notes, on young transgender people who “find great comfort in being able to identify feelings of isolation and share life experiences with others in a way they would never have been able to before.” Carmen Papaluca agrees, noting that emerging research into the concept of self-love on Instagram shows that this can be a strong mitigating factor against its negative impacts: “Even if they’re looking at negative images at the same time, this still seems to provide a protective factor. It’s a huge area for further research.”

Binny Debbie recognises this positive factor, and is grateful for the opportunity to work through mental health issues with a supportive community. But even memes about mental illness can fall victim to the same dilemmas about authenticity and life through a filter that play out across Instagram. Of her “miserable early sobriety” Debbie tells me: “I was trying to put a positive spin on something that, at the time, I wasn't completely sold on myself. It didn't always come through as I intended. I work through thoughts publicly, and it can be helpful and harmful. I often don't think before I post. I'm reactive. I'm working on that, because I know a lot of people see it and are affected by it.”

Like Debbie, Papaluca says the participants involved in her research are also becoming more reflexive about their Instagram use as they consider the effect it has on the mental health of themselves and others. “The most powerful part of the research has been turning off the tape after the focus groups when we’re all just casually talking; they’ve all talked to each other about how good it felt to hear other people vocalising the things they felt and how reassuring that was. It’s empowered them to feel that they’re in control of how this affects them, and it’s started conversations about how they’re going to make that change.”

“People get shit for posts that seem too ‘attention seeking’, but I think those posts need to be seen; they might be the only way certain people know how to vocalise their traumas” – Binny Debbie

She is keen to emphasise, though, that the solution cannot be solely in the hands of users themselves, or indeed their parents, as has been the go-to solution for so long. Instead, her research advocates framing the effects of Instagram as a public health issue in order to create a sense of collective responsibility at all levels. “We know that young people engage in negative behaviours and risky behaviours no matter what we tell them” she points out. “So we all have a responsibility to address it and instead show them how to make safer and healthier decisions and how to be more mindful.”

But in the context of huge debates about the responsibilities of tech giants and the effects of social media on society, what of the platform itself? “Millions of young people use Instagram every day to express themselves and connect with their friends and the wider community. We take their wellbeing seriously and have a responsibility to ensure that Instagram is a safe and supportive place.” says an Instagram spokesperson. “Mental health is a complex issue, and one we are committed to addressing. We have created in-app tools, features, and resources so people can control their Instagram experience and get support they need, when and where they need it. We will continue to work to maintain Instagram as a welcoming and safe place for everyone.” They point to their Community guidelines and changes to comment moderation; these are positive initiatives for the community as a whole, but changes which arguably do little to address the concerns of experts around comparison and the specific dangers of image-based media.

Considering what could make the biggest difference to young users, Beverley Hills suggests introducing social media sessions as part of the PSHE curriculum, and flagging manipulated photos with a symbol or caption. Papaluca notes the responsibility of Instagram to stay on top of constantly emerging hashtags and trends around the likes of self-harm. Influencers and celebrities also have a part to play, she believes, in being honest about their real lives, and acting as role models to those consuming their content. The RSPH report, too, made a range of recommendations, including pop-up ‘heavy usage’ warnings on social media – which would alert users when they’re spending too much time on the app – and a system of the type already implemented by Instagram, in which vulnerable users can be identified and discretely signposted to support.

Source : http://www.dazeddigital.com/life-culture/article/40020/1/instagram-and-mental-health

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