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How Instagram is giving us back control and protecting our mental health

There is always talk about how social media can be damaging for mental health and how it’s given people an easy way to troll others. However, the social media platform Instagram has and are continuing to allow their users to control their own experience and minimise the negative news and comments they may see or receive. 

Combatting cyber abuse is a complex problem that all social media platforms need to minimise and throughout 2021, Instagram introduced several new features that people can choose to turn on. These include hiding like count, turning off comments on chosen pictures, warning people about sensitive content, and expanding the hidden words feature into direct messages. 

It’s common knowledge that people with a larger following and who are well-known are more likely to receive hateful comments or direct messages, however, the hidden words feature is available for everyone. The tool, when turned on, automatically filters out hateful or offensive phrases, words, and emojis so users don’t see them at all. 

Of course, different words and phrases can be more hurtful to individuals than others, so Instagram has also added the option to add your own custom list of words and phrases you want to be filtered out. They’ll all be filtered into a hidden requests folder and those messages will only be seen if people choose to look at them and uncover the offensive words. 

Being constantly trolled can be extremely damaging for mental health, and therefore filtering out hateful words and stopping people from having to see them is a great step to help tackle the problem of cyberbullying. 

For a few years now, Instagram has been blurring out imagery that may be deemed as disturbing or sensitive and people would choose to view it by tapping on the image. However, in 2021 they rolled out another feature to help tackle this issue further:

The sensitive content control feature. 

Sensitive content is content that doesn’t necessarily break Instagram guidelines, but some people may find them upsetting. Instagram recognises that everyone is different, and therefore has different opinions on what they class as offensive; therefore, this new feature allows people to have more control over what comes up on their explore page. It does not control what you see on direct messages, reels, stories, feed, or account recommendations. 

People can choose to keep the setting on “limit” which is the default or change to “limit more” which will decrease the chances even further. On the other hand, people can change it to “allow” which means people may see more videos that are sensitive. 

So, what are Instagram’s plans for 2022? 

On the 5th of January 2022, Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri uploaded a reel that highlighted some more changes coming this year and confirms they are giving users even more control over what they see on their feed. 

Adam Mosseri says “it’s important to me that people feel good about the time they spend on the app, and I think giving people ways to shape Instagram into what’s best for them is one of the best ways to pursue that goal” 

Instagram is planning to roll out three different feeds: Home, favourites, and following. Home will be like what your feed is like now. However, favourites and following will be different. People will be able to customise and add people to their favourite feed to ensure they don’t ever miss a post – this is a great way to ensure you can keep up to date with best friends and family. Following will be a chronological feed that consists of everyone you’re following, without the recommendations. 

This new feature, again, will allow people to shape Instagram how they want it and to decrease the risk of users seeing things they don’t wish to see.

Adam Mosseri also shared a post on the 28th of December 2021, where he shared a few other focuses for 2022. One important one is transparency – Instagram believes it’s important that people understand how Instagram works, to truly be able to shape the app how they wish. Adam also confirmed that they will be doubling down on control so we can expect some fresh new features that’ll enable us to protect ourselves from negative and offensive visuals and messages. 

What do you think Instagram should bring in this year to help tackle problems faced on social media? 

By Beckie Jordan, Account Executive at FOUR.