Comparing our life with that of those who display theirs on the Internet, the challenge of getting a greater number of “likes” than our acquaintances or achieving perfect bodies like those offered by some applications are examples of situations that generate anxiety or depression, which as we know constitute public health problems.
According to research from the Wall Street Journal, 32% of women who feel bad about their bodies say that Instagram makes them feel worse. The younger generations tend to define their concept of happiness from the scrolls they make daily on social networks. They see what others are doing, eating, the places they are visiting and they take them as the paradigm of happiness, which they tend to imitate, even if they are lifestyles alien to them.
Cases like the suicide of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old teenager, have opened up the debate on the use of social networks in England. Her father discovered that six months before her daughter’s death, she had reacted to more than 2,000 social media posts related to self-harm, depression or suicide.
The question is whether there is the power to blame social networks or is it an individual responsibility to decide the type of content we consume.
Is it necessary to regulate the publication of content on social networks? Answers in one direction or another would abound, as well as questioning whether influencers have any responsibility when posting content or blaming the campaigns that brands create in which they extol social stereotypes.
It has not gone unnoticed that Frances Haugen, a former Meta employee, showed in October of this year studies carried out by the company showing that the consumption of Instagram leads to problems with mental health, body image, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. According to the internal study, 13.5% of teens said Instagram worsens their suicidal thoughts, while 17% of those surveyed said it aggravates their eating disorders.
It would be innocent to think that the use of social networks will be regulated in the short term or that users will change the way they use them, but one way to reduce these problems is for campaigns to include tips to preserve mental health, especially in those of products with potential negative effects for it.
One fledgling effort to that end is the global movement driven by influencers and celebrities to speak out about mental health issues. Let’s just remember the gymnast Simone Biles at the Olympic Games, where she, being the favorite to win several competitions, decided to retire due to mental health issues. Another example is the recent Tiktok strategy to demonstrate its commitment to the issue, in which, through the hashtags #mentalHealth, #selfcare, #stressrelief, #healingjourney and #wedorecover, users can access information and communities ranging from help to learn to relax, to testimonials from people who are going through a problem related to mental health.
There are also platforms aimed at returning authenticity and transparency to social networks, such as the French application Be Real, which has 28 million downloads since its creation in 2019. This app aims to show a more real life on social networks, with a notification that is sent daily at random times, activates the rear and front cameras of cell phones so that, in two minutes, without filters, the user has time to plan the photo or share what they are doing at that moment.