In a modest acknowledgement of the psychological influence that the Facebook-owned app may have on teenagers, Instagram is going to begin urging them to “take a break” from the social networking site.
Facebook has been involved in a number of scandals, some of which have resulted in the company being sued or grilled by Congress, but there are a few major ones that have sparked widespread outrage.
While its intervention in a previous US election continues to plague it, Facebook’s latest blunder involves one of its largest assets rather than its primary social network.
On the other hand, the social media behemoth has been chastised for the way Instagram is handled, and it has promised to take tougher efforts to protect its young users’ mental health.
In the last few weeks, Facebook has made news once again, this time in a bad light, as leaks and whistleblower Frances Haugen showed how Instagram, in particular, had a harmful impact on the mental health of its teenage users.
Not only have research pointed to this phenomena, but Facebook was allegedly fully aware of it and opted to ignore the warning signs in favor of increased network traffic and, eventually, money. Unsurprisingly, the world’s most well-known social media brand was once again subjected to severe scrutiny and criticism.
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri wrote on his blog on September 27th that the firm was “exploring” the features:
We announced last week that we’re exploring two new ideas: encouraging people to look at other topics if they’re dwelling on content that might contribute to negative social comparison, and a feature tentatively called “Take a Break,” where people could put their account on pause and take a moment to consider whether the time they’re spending is meaningful.
Instagram has decided to put its plans for an Instagram Kids account on hold, maybe forever, in response to the growing pressure on its teen audience. Facebook and Instagram, on the other hand, are under pressure to take even more drastic measures to protect underage users, even as they try to explain away the leaked mental health studies. Facebook VP of global affairs Nick Clegg revealed two such moves Instagram will soon take in that direction on CNN’s “State of the Union” show.
It will, for example, attempt to persuade people to divert their attention away from potentially dangerous content. If a teen user insists on viewing the same type of content over and over, they will be advised to switch to a different type of content.
Clegg did suggest that Facebook’s algorithms “should be held to account, if necessary, by regulation so that people can match what our systems say they’re supposed to do from what actually happens.”
However, this will need Facebook opening up its algorithms to scrutiny so that regulators may examine how the social media platform amplifies material, even potentially toxic content.
A “take a break” reminder will probably be the most severe and least beneficial. This is comparable to what some digital wellbeing or mindfulness services strive to do by encouraging users to take a break from their phones or locking them out for a short amount of time.
Adults may have the self-control to truly heed these reminders, but if Instagram doesn’t execute them well enough, teens may discover a way to get past them.