Social media might not be the primary cause of mental health issues, as our research confirmed this week, but it certainly plays a role in negatively impacting our mental wellbeing. Just last week it was found that platforms like Instagram and Twitter use the same technique as gambling firms to encourage users back onto their sites.
Now, Instagram is getting ahead of the negative press and is launching a new feature to ensure the platform is used positively - Usage Insights - which will show users how much time they spend on the app. We know what you’re thinking, NO ONE needs to know how many hours they’ve wasted scrolling through endless pictures of other people’s supposedly fabulous lives, or #spon for products you know no one uses. However, when it comes to mental health, the feature could actually be a blessing in disguise. We all talk about reducing our social media usage, perhaps even quitting altogether, but when it comes down to it and it’s 11pm on a Thursday night, there you are watching everyone else have fun right before bed - the prime time you shouldn’t be on social media, apparently.
This feature will not only give you the wake-up call you may need to cut your usage down for good, but it will also make all of us more conscious of allotting certain amounts of time for social media use. This is what Daria Kuss, an expert in cyberpsychology from Nottingham Trent University, advises when it comes to healthy social media use.
‘What I often say to people is to make time for social media use’, Kuss told Grazia, ‘This may be counterintuitive in the first place because we may want to limit the amount of time that we spend on it, but if we were to use it for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening then you can get it out of your system, and not constantly be checking which may then be associated with problems.’
According to Kuss, allotting time slots to social media use means that when we’re not using it, we’re more likely to keep up with our friends and family in traditional ways, as in we might actually see them face-to-face more. The lack of face-to-face contact is one of the primary concerns that people have about heavy social media use, so encouraging it is vital to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can lead to mental health issues.
This is something Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom seems to agree with, confirming reports of the Usage Insights tool on Twitter, stating:
‘We're building tools that will help the IG community know more about the time they spend on Instagram – any time should be positive and intentional.
‘Understanding how time online impacts people is important, and it's the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this. We want to be part of the solution. I take that responsibility seriously.’
This comes in the wake of their new policy on cyberbullying, which promises to filer comments that intend to harass or upset people on the platform.
Whether or not the features will have a huge impact on the way we use Instagram remains to be seen, but the way Instagram is taking steps to improve the way we interact with the app and are affected by it is promising for the future of social media.
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