Instagram can be toxic for teenage girls. Lots of people outside of Facebook Inc.
have said so. My colleagues recently reported that, based on internal research, the company itself has known about their photo sharing app for some time.
Facebook has publicly stated that while teenage girls struggle for their well-being, those same girls said Instagram has made them feel better, not worse. He admitted, however, that he was listening to the concerns of parents and regulators.
These parents and regulators probably don’t spend hours a day on Instagram, and they certainly didn’t grow up using it. Their concerns and desire to crack down on Instagram and its use are well-intentioned, but don’t always take into account Instagram’s central place in children’s social lives today.
“All of my communications with my friends are via Instagram and Snapchat DMs. If I were to leave Instagram, it would feel like I was living under a rock and separated from the rest of the world, ”says Ava McCumber Gandara, 17, of Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Ava is one of the teens and students I spoke to about their Instagram use. All of them had some body image or mental health issues that they believed were a result of their use of the app. They shared coping mechanisms and other tips they developed to protect their well-being while using the platform. (Spoiler: A frequently mentioned tip is to quit Instagram, at least temporarily.)
Control what you see in your feed.
“I had followed most of the people in my class even though I hadn’t interacted with them a lot. These interactions seemed to have a higher meaning than they actually were. It was easier for me to focus on my life when other people’s lives didn’t take up so much space in my head. —Aiko Ma, 18, of Carlisle, Mass.
“When I was 15, I was depressed and in a slump. I was fed up with reading sad quotes on Instagram and watching depressing videos, and came up with a strategy I called Migration for Your Mental where every time I did something negative I chose to migrate. towards something positive. At first I said, “OK, Busola, hang up. A few weeks later, I started to stop following the accounts. After that I deleted some search terms from my Instagram search history. It happened to me to write on a piece of paper what makes me good and what hurts me. If it’s on the wrong list, that’s fine. My flow has undergone a dramatic makeover. —Busola Akinlosotu, 16, from Brooklyn, NY
“You can hide the content of certain accounts so that the person doesn’t know that you aren’t seeing their posts. I did this with a few people. —Leigh Brandt, 22, student at Boston University
“I ditched a bunch of celebrities and started following only the people who were spreading good vibes. The content of your feed really changes your perspective. But I also take a step back and think about why i feel bad about what someone posted i believe more girls should be having these conversations with themselves and wondering why they attach their self-confidence to something they see on social media . —Deeyana Desronvil, 19, student at Providence College
“The people you follow and allow you to follow can make a big difference in how you feel. It’s so different to send a picture to people who might not even like you compared to people who care about you. I would generally advise people to keep their account private. Knowing exactly who can see what you’re posting will feel much better. —Amy Crouch, 21, Cornell University student and co-author of “My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World of Devices”
Turn off “Like” and turn off “Explore”.
“Turning off the number of ‘likes’ takes a lot of the worry that comes from Instagram. I can post whatever I want and not be afraid of people judging me because I don’t have a lot of likes. I used to think about the best time to post, when most people would see it. When I turned off the likes, I focused on posting for myself. —Ava
“I have permanently disabled the count of likes at certain times. Seeing the difference between the posts that get the most likes isn’t great. I noticed that photos of me wearing a bodycon dress would get more likes. I think Instagram should completely disable likes. —Giulia Pacini, 16, of Houston
“A year or two ago I started following more fitness and food accounts because I’m interested in it, and what I started seeing on my Explore page were accounts with horrendous relationships. messy with food and fitness. The algorithm had decided that was what I wanted. I decided to avoid anything that was not in my feed. It is difficult to do, because it depends on the will. I wish I could have reset the algorithm. —Amy
“I avoid the Explore page. It will show me things that don’t reflect my feed. I just don’t watch it. —Deeyana
Know when to take a break.
“The summer before my last year of high school, I was at a concert. I looked around and saw hundreds of phones in the air recording the show. People weren’t even looking at it, they were looking at it on their screens. It occurred to me that people weren’t living in the moment, they were documenting the moment so that friends could see it. The next morning I deleted all social media apps. I figured I would go without social media for as long as it felt good, and before I knew it, it had been six months. ” —Leigh
“A few years ago, I started putting a limit on Instagram through the Screen Time setting on my iPhone. I limited myself to 30 minutes a day. At first I was asking for more time and it was starting to feel counterproductive, so I started to hit my deadline and the scroll started to feel less important to me. —Amy
“I took a hiatus from Instagram for a whole year once, in grade 7. Social media increases anxiety. It feels like everything is coming to you – the pressure to look a certain way – especially at such a young age. The year I took a break there were a lot of jokes that I didn’t understand because of the memes going around and I missed things, but it was my choice and it really helped my anxiety. – Giulia
“I had Instagram in college and there were unrealistic beauty standards that made me feel very secure – lots of thin girls with long blonde hair. It got really exhausting and I was always worried about how many likes and comments I was getting. Last year I decided to quit all social media for six months and think about it. I got back to it a few months ago, but I changed my habits. —Deeyana
“Several of my peers have deleted Instagram for periods of time. People are aware of its impact on their mental health. I deleted the app first, then deactivated my account completely because I wanted to feel further removed from it. (She reinstated him a few months later for the sole purpose of participating in group DMs with friends from a student entrepreneurship program.) —Aiko
Everyone shares too much. Instead, try sub-sharing.
“I only post every three or four months. It feels like more of the moments are personal and private now. I used to post something as simple as a beautiful bowl of granola. Now I can just eat this bowl of granola and no one needs to know that. —Leigh
“The only really important moment I realized I had too much of myself linked to my Instagram account was after a dance in high school. I felt I had this obligation to share photos to show that I was myself. was having fun and wearing a cute dress, but I was crippled by the fact that I hated all the photos. I didn’t post a photo of this dance, and of course the sky didn’t fall. —Amy
Live more life offline.
“I decided to engage with people outside of Instagram. If I saw someone who posted something about a life event, I took the opportunity to text that person instead. to just like his post and scroll. —Amy
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
What healthy ways have you found to use Instagram that you would like to share with teenage girls? Join the conversation below.
“In my boarding school, when we went out to eat, we put our phones in the middle of the table and whoever took theirs first had to pay for dinner. Eventually, someone would give in. But it made the dinner so much better and more satisfying. —Leigh
Try out some of the in-app tools.
I also searched for answers on Facebook. What kind of tools or advice does the company have for its emotionally struggling Instagram users? A spokesperson made some suggestions.
• A new tool called Limits allows users to hide comments and direct message requests from people who don’t follow them, or who have recently started following them, in an effort to prevent harassment or bullying.
• A hidden word filter allows users to specify words, phrases or emojis that they find offensive so they don’t have to see those abusive comments or DM requests.
• When people search for or post content related to eating disorders or body image issues, they see a pop-up post with tips and ways to connect with the National Eating Disorders Association.
“We will continue our work to extend parental supervision to teenage accounts on Instagram,” said the spokesperson. “These new features, which parents and teens can choose from, will give parents tools to significantly shape their teen’s experience.” She said more details on this effort will come in the coming months.
The company also announced that it is on hold on plans to develop a version of Instagram for children. A full stop might be better: If teens find Instagram difficult to manage, how will young children fare?
Write to Julie Jargon at [email protected]
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