Why Instagram Is the Worst Social Media for Mental Health

Instagram is the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing, according to a recent survey of almost 1,500 teens and young adults. While the photo-based platform got points for self-expression and self-identity, it was also associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO, or the “fear of missing out.”

Out of five social networks included in the survey, YouTube received the highest marks for health and wellbeing and was the only site that received a net positive score by respondents. Twitter came in second, followed by Facebook and then Snapchat—with Instagram bringing up the rear.

The #StatusOfMind survey, published by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for Public Health, included input from 1,479 young people (ages 14 to 24) from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. From February through May of this year, people answered questions about how different social media platforms impacted 14 different issues related to their mental or physical health.

There were certainly some benefits associated with social networking. All of the sites received positive scores for self-identity, self-expression, community building and emotional support, for example. YouTube also got high marks for bringing awareness of other people’s health experiences, for providing access to trustworthy health information and for decreasing respondents’ levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

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But they all received negative marks, as well—especially for sleep quality, bullying, body image and FOMO. And unlike YouTube, the other four networks were associated with increases in depression and anxiety.

Previous studies have suggested that young people who spend more than two hours a day on social networking sites are more likely to report psychological distress. “Seeing friends constantly on holiday or enjoying nights out can make young people feel like they are missing out while others enjoy life,” the #StatusOfMind report states. “These feelings can promote a ‘compare and despair’ attitude.”

Social media posts can also set unrealistic expectations and create feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, the authors wrote. This may explain why Instagram, where personal photos take center stage, received the worst scores for body image and anxiety. As one survey respondent wrote, “Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect’.”

MORE: Why You Should Let Someone Else Choose Your Tinder Photo

Other research has found that the more social networks a young adult uses, the more likely he or she is to report depression and anxiety. Trying to navigate between different norms and friend networks on various platforms could be to blame, study authors say—although it’s also possible that people with poor mental health are drawn to multiple social-media platforms in the first place.

To reduce the harmful effects of social media on children and young adults, the Royal Society is calling for social media companies to make changes. The report recommends the introduction of a pop-up “heavy usage” warning within these apps or website—something 71% of survey respondents said they’d support.

It also recommends that companies find a way to highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated, as well as identify and offer help to users who could be suffering from mental health problems. (A feature rolled out on Instagram last year allowing users to anonymously flag troublesome posts.)

The government can also help, the report states. It calls for “safe social media use” to be taught during health education in schools, for professionals who work with youth to be trained in digital and social media and for more research to be conducted on the effects of social media on mental health.

The Royal Society hopes to empower young adults to use social networks “in a way that protects and promotes their health and wellbeing,” the report states. “Social media isn’t going away soon, nor should it. We must be ready to nurture the innovation that the future holds.”

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Toxic Social Media: 7 Reasons to Ditch Instagram

J. Harvey LewisFollow Aug 21, 2018 · 7 min read This Frog Feeling Better Just After Taking an #InstaCrap

Last month, I accepted a friend’s invitation and dove into the wonderfully bright and seemingly pleasant world of Instagram. I did so partially for business, and partially out of curiosity. A few friends were saying it was much better than other social media — simpler, less cluttered, more expressive, and easier to make genuine connections with people. At first, they seemed to be right, but it didn’t take long for my life to feel a bit constipated. I later learned I was suffering from IGS (Irritable-Gram Syndrome). I’m happy to say now, after relieving myself of my InstaCrap, I’m feeling great again. Instagram has been voted the worst social media for mental health, so it’s probably time you check yourself for the IGS symptoms below.

By the way, I fully realize that for many people, Instagram holds a lot of value and does not create the problems listed below, which is why NatureHub still maintains a page there (not run by me). This article is written for those who are starting to realize, like I did, that Instagram can very well be a personal source of toxicity.

Let’s see how…

#1 You‘re Anxious, Stressed, & Depressed

In 2017, Instagram was rated the worst social media for anxiety in teens and young adults by the Royal Society for Public Health. With complex algorithms designed to reward high quality and engaging content, it can be hard not to compare oneself to others, focusing too much energy on putting getting your picture just right, with the perfect hashtags, using the perfect filters. “Maybe I wasn’t invited out last night because my post was lame?” “It barely got any likes.” “I should probably comment more on her photos, then she will notice me.” “Hey, did someone just stop following my page?” According to British anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, the number of people one can know and maintain meaningful social contact with at any given point is somewhere between 100 and 250. When social media is based on pictures and likes instead of person to person conversations, it creates a static interference that makes building these meaningful relationships unnaturally challenging. The more social networks we use, the more likely we are to report depression, so it’s important we are wise in our selection.

Don’t let #InstaCrap Destroy Your Peace of Mind!

#2 You Don’t Get Restful Sleep

Instagram was also shown to have negative impacts on sleep. The average person spends about 2 hours and 15 minutes between various online social networks, and according to the University of Pittsburg, just an hour of social media per day caused a 30% sleep disturbance rate. It’s important to note that lack of sleep, anxiety, depression, and anger are all positively correlated, and tend to amplify one another. They also all have tremendously negative impacts on health. So if you are losing sleep due to social media overuse, there is logic in cutting the most stressful, depressing ones from your routine first. For me, that was IG.

This Woman is So Disoriented In Her Feeds She Doesn’t Even Know She Needs an #InstaCrap.

#3 You feel Insecure about your Body

A study published in 2017 measured the relationship between young women’s body image concerns and their overall Instagram use. It revealed, “Greater overall…use was associated with greater self-objectification, and that relationship was mediated both by internalization and by appearance comparisons to celebrities.” So if you’ve found yourself taking 23 pictures to get the perfect angle, it’s time to stop comparing yourself to photoshopped, filtered-out models, and start appreciating the whole person you are and the beauty that you uniquely possess within. Where’s Mr. Rogers when you need him, right?

#4 You are Afraid of Missing Out

For many, FOMO (fear of missing out) happens regularly when Instagraming. They may see pictures or video clips of friends doing cool things with mutual friends, but they were not invited. Maybe it looks like the person is always doing fun things, and going to interesting places. They look at their own situation and feel lame. They wish they could trade places thinking, “Nobody is going to want to invite me out, cause I don’t have interesting things to post.” When I post things like that, it seems like almost nobody likes them or comments about them. It’s really sad to observe that as people compete more for attention and approval on social media, it tends to result in people being less content, and then learning to be fake in order to try to fit in.

Staring at Your IG Feeds Won’t Help You Feel Bedder. Taking an #Instacrap Will.

#5 You Don’t Want to Make Mark Zuckerberg Even Richer.

For me, my FOMO came from the fear that if NatureHub’s IG account wasn’t big enough, future customers, partners, and investors might think we suck. Nowadays it’s a pay-to-play system on Facebook/Instagram for businesses. That means to get content out to a significant number of people, you will have to pay Instagram regularly for ads. For us the time and money are much better spent creating an awesome platform and getting people to use it, than to invest our resources on a platform that withholds content from reaching people unless you pay them. Also, the thought of giving Mark Zuckerberg even one more cent makes me want to puke.

And yes, just to clarif — for those who have been asleep for the past few years,


Sorry for yelling, but some people are so quick to forget. They’ll tell me,

This Guy Hopes You Never Take an #Instacrap

“Hey man, no I don’t use Facebook anymore, they were recording my conversations in the background through my phones microphone and selling the info to 3rd party advertisers. It was getting really creepy. The other day I was talking about Chuck Norris, now his face is following me everywhere I go online. Yea, I’m tired of that crap. I’m on that cool new Indie platform IG with all the other cool kids — you should follow me there.”

So anyway, just remember, Instagram is not a “cool indie” platform, not anymore. They are run by Facebook, a mega-corporation. Anything you don’t like about Facebook’s philosophy and practices, you can assume exactly the same of Instagram.

#6 You’re Tired of Competing with Automated Accounts

Competing With Bots is a Steaming Heap of #InstaCrap!

Recently, Dovetail Software revealed “16.4 percent of the followers on Instagram’s top 20 accounts were fraudulent.” Meaning, they use bots to go around and like, comment, and share content in order to artificially inflate their numbers and increase their followers. Facebook admitted last year up to 270 million accounts on that platform were fake, and studies have shown between 8–11.5 of active accounts on IG are automated bots accounts being used to artificially inflate other accounts. Facebook-Instagram might say it’s trying to remove them, but bots can actually help them make money. The more they successfully engage a person, the more data is generated, which creates more advertising opportunities for them.

#7 You Can Think of More Reasons

Be honest, now that we’re on the topic, you can probably think of other reasons it’s time for you to take an InstaCrap too. You might already be thinking of a dozen reasons IG is making your life less enjoyable. Because this is such a large topic, and I don’t want your IGS to start acting up, I’ve decided to dedicate another article to the topic. Go ahead and excuse yourself. I need a break too. All this thinking about Instagram is honestly just bringing back old memories of how stressed out I was getting.

…Stay Tuned for Part II


How many times has someone asked you what you did last night and you’ve wanted to reply, ‘Instagram?’.

No matter how many studies we read about how comparing our lives to other peoples’ can cause feelings of inadequacy – or how social media can negatively impact our relationships and even work – we still keep scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling.

rath phl chiy thwil / EyeEmGetty Images

Dr Sarah Vohra, NHS consultant psychiatrist @themindmedic told Women’s Health as part of their ‘Healthy guide to using Instagram’: “While I can’t yet diagnose someone with social media addiction, I believe that it’s real. Just as someone with alcohol addiction may have a drink first thing – even though they know it is damaging their physical health – people with tendencies towards social media addiction will grab their phone as soon as they wake up, despite knowing that scrolling mindlessly first thing negatively impacts their health.”

So where’s the line? When does social media turn from a hobby to an unhealthy addiction, and what can you do to change things?

The warning signs of unhealthy Instagram use

1. Posting stories in the early hours of the morning

If you’re taking to Instagram to post, or check content, when the majority of people – you included – would usually be sleeping then it’s a sign that social media is affecting your healthy daily routine.

2. If someone were to hold an obviously edited image to your face, would they recognise you to be the same person?

While we all may tweak the lighting or add a flattering filter on the odd occasion, heavily doctoring images regularly could be a reflection of self-esteem difficulties.

3. Are you visibly sleep-deprived?

Do people comment on your changing moods? Or have you noticed an inability to concentrate at work? Scrolling late into the evening before bed, can wreak havoc on your sleep routines.

4. Do you find yourself bored, unless you’re on your phone?

Filming yourself for the gram, or catching up on someone else’s day through stories could be affecting your day-to-day interactions.

5. Do you keep track of every like and comment?

Worrying about raking in the likes at the expense of just living in the moment indicates you may be posting simply for validation.

Now what?

If you identify with one or more of the above statements, it may be time to change the way you engage with the platform. Here’s how you can start:

Try a reverse curfew ritual

‘You can be more sensitive to triggers first thing, so allow yourself 30 to 60 minutes without looking at your phone,’ says Dr Vohra. ‘Do something that puts you in a positive mindset – like a workout or making a tasty breakfast – and don’t look to social media to give you that.’

Enforce a pre-bed blackout

A 2017 study by the university of Pittsburgh found that engaging with social media in the last 30 minutes before bed was the strongest predictor of a poor night’s sleep – irrespective of how much time people spent online during the day. Give it a miss.

Instagram intentionally

Choose when you go online – and how long you stay online for, rather than just picking up your phone and starting to scroll. ‘Research shows that mood drops after extended or unintentional time online, which can leave you feeling frustrated, lonely and depressed,’ explains Clinical psychologist Dr Jessamy Hibberd.

Want to use Instagram more positively?

In a bid to help women keep their social media experiences as safe and enjoyable as possible, Women’s Health has put together a helpful guide. From understanding your own mental health triggers, to expert advice on posting positively, the manual could help the way you scroll and how that makes you feel.

Related Story Related Story Jess Edwards Digital Editor Jess Edwards is the Editor of, overseeing all things digital.

Instagram named the ‘worst’ social media app for young people’s mental health

Instagram is followed closely by Snapchat.

Social media – particularly the likes of Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat – has become a huge part of our lives in recent years and to be honest, the thought of being without it now is a scary prospect.

While social media is mostly used for getting the latest news and finding the funniest memes, it is also a place where people go to post photos of themselves online in the hope of getting many likes.

Without beating around the bush, that is why most people post photos to the likes of Facebook and Instagram. We try and find the cleverest caption, the best filter and even post at ‘peak times’ to maximise our chances of getting the most interaction.

As you would imagine, this has a number of serious effects on our emotional wellbeing.

A study from the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK has found that Instagram is the most detrimental social networking app for young people’s mental health.

Their study, entitled #StatusofMind, surveyed almost 1,500 young people between the ages of 14 to 24 and asked about how specific social media platforms impacted on their health in terms of anxiety, depression, self-identity and body image.

Out of all the platforms, YouTube was the only one that was found to have a positive impact while Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter all had negative impacts.

Instagram had the most negative impact notably among young women who “compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and Photoshopped versions of reality,” on Instagram, said Matt Keracher, author of the report.

He added, “Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect.'”

Keracher has asked to tackle the effect it has on young people’s mental health by placing a warning image on pictures that have been digitally manipulated.

The report also showed that the length of engagement online had an impact on young people’s mental health, with people who spend more than two hours a day on networking sites more likely to have a poorer state of mental health.

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Hit play to hear Carl Kinsella, Ellen Coyne and Dion Fanning on State of Us – Election 2020.

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This week: Jack Whitehall: How he made peace with being posh

Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble are joined by Jerry Flannery, Eddie O’Sullivan and Ali Miller in Reardens, Cork as House of Rugby sets its sights on the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.

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14 Hazardous Social Media Apps Kids Should Not Use

Parenting in the 21st century is way more demanding than it was ever before, and it is all due to the double-edged sword, known as technology. We say double-edged because technology has helped parents simplify many parenting tasks, for instance keeping an eye on their kids’ whereabouts, restricting them from accessing certain content, etc.

However, some technological advancements are proving to be a quite a dangerous hassle for parents since they can effectively expose the privacy of the younger generation. Topping the list is the easy accessibility to smart devices and applications, which are exposing kids to growing online threats.

When we talk about kids and the digital threats, we discuss issues like cyberbullying, cyberstalking, catfishing, online sexual harassment, and whatnot. As parents, it is our job to protect our kids from online predators, harassers, stalkers and every other kind of creep that could harm not just the privacy of our kids but also their life.

Where do we start from? You may innocently wonder.

We can start with talking to our kids about the perils of using some social media apps that are widely used by thousands and even millions of users, but they can become dangerous if not used with care.

Perils of Using Dangerous Social Media Apps

When we say dangerous or unsafe social media apps, we don’t mean that the app itself is dangerous. What we mean is that the abuse of these apps by people with hidden, deadly motives.

Moreover, while the culprit who abuses the app to harass a person is to be blamed and punished for all the right reasons, as parents, it is our responsibility to teach our kids to give anyone the opportunity to harass them. As Aesop rightly said, “We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction.”

By abusing the social media app, an individual may hack into your kids’ device and extract personal information. To a parent’s worst nightmare, he may exploit the information to stalk your child online, make him/her a target of cyberbullying, sexual harassment, unethical social engineering, etc.

In fact, it will take just a glance for you to discover thousands of cases that are linked to the abusive use of social media applications. Take for instance the suicide case of Amanda Todd, a teenager from British Columbia. The teenager took a risk while video chatting with a stranger. The culprit then used that opportunity to blackmail her and even publicized her risqué images, which ultimately became the reason of cyberbullying and eventually her death.

Top Dangerous Social Media Apps

Let’s take a look at some of the popular social media apps regularly abused by cyber villains:

1. Snapchat

The app doesn’t need any introduction at all. After all, it has millions of users from around the globe. However, the popular “bubble messaging” app does have its fair share of privacy and security issues that put many users’ privacy at risk.

For instance, the app was hacked in 2014 and a large number of personal photos or snapchats of users were publicized. Apart from that, the app does destruct the snaps, but there is a short window that people may use to take screenshots of the snap and later exploit it.


The app allows users to ask any question they want either as an anonymous user or as themselves. However, some people tend to make an inappropriate use of the app’s anonymity feature by asking vulgar questions and even leave offensive comments. Some even start bullying other users by making derogatory remarks.

3. Whisper

Whisper is a confession app where anyone can make confessions while being anonymous. Users can communicate with any other Whisper user living nearby. The app uses GPS location tracker to track nearby users.

The app, although, keeps the users’ identity anonymous but it does show the location of the area from where the messages are being sent. As a result, any pervert or online predator can pinpoint the location of the victim. In fact, in 2013, a man allegedly used the app to track an underage girl and then raped her.

4. Kik Messenger

Kik messenger was built to make chat messaging more fun and engaging. Users can send quick text messages, photos, and even sketches. However, the app lacks age verification. As a result, the app can be downloaded by kids who are younger than 13.

Since users of any age can access the app, cyber stalkers and even pedophiles can get the opportunity to find young kids and compel them into sending risqué photos or their personal information.

5. Tinder

Tinder is yet another popular app for finding people and starting a conversation with them. The app uses GPS location tracker to track and show other Tinder users living nearby. The app is mostly used by teens and tweens.

Tinder allows users to view other users’ photos and start communication with people they like. Since the app is quite popular, usually among teens, some strangers tend to create fake profiles to lure unsuspecting users to hit a conversation and then meet up.

6. Instagram

Instagram is a widely known photo-sharing application that allows you to capture and share photos with your followers. But due to the ever-growing popularity of the app, it has become a potential target for hackers who are after users’ sensitive photos and information.

7. Omegle

Omegle is a video chatting application that allows two parties to indulge in a video chat while being anonymous. The user is addressed as “You” while the other person is addressed as “Stranger.”

The app has garnered the attention of many critics who deem the application as a perfect spot for predators who are after unsuspecting kids.

8. Blendr

Blendr is akin to Tinder in all manners. It is a flirting app that uses the GPS tracking to show nearby users who are also interested in flirting or dating. Just like Tinder, the app can be abused by users who are out there to get personal information from our innocent kids to harm them later.

9. Periscope

According to recent statistics, more than a million users use Periscope every day. However, like any other app, Periscope can be exploited for unethical activities.

Periscope allows users to stream audio and video content and share it with other users. Where video chatting or streaming is involved, security hazards automatically arise.

10. Houseparty

Houseparty is a social network that allows users to communicate with each other via texts and video chats in a room. Not only are the videos live but also there are no screening tools in place whatsoever. This means that your kids could very well be exposed to inappropriate content. Users also have the ability to take screenshots and send links through chat.

11. Voxer

This is a push-to-talk app which enables users to quickly send and receive short voice messages. Users can chat with multiple people simultaneously, and only have to press the “play” button to hear their received messages. The service mostly has an adult user base, and some people even use it to instantly communicate with teams at work.

Voxer is gaining popularity among teenagers who can fall victim to the claws of cyberbullies. There are many malicious individuals on the network who often send obscene or hurtful messages. The app is still rated 4+ on the App Store despite being linked to some serious cases of cyberbullying.

12. Tumblr

Kids and teenagers use this part blogging and part social networking app for creating and sharing content – be it text, photos, audio, or videos. According to Common Sense Media, Tumblr is “too raunchy for tykes” as inappropriate, violent, and pornographic content is easily accessible to users.

It’s also worth noting that unless you have selected the appropriate privacy settings for your account, which is too complicated of a task in itself, all of your content is public and can be viewed by just about anyone!

13. Vsco

A photography app that provides users with a variety of tools to take or upload photos, edit and add Vsco filters, and then share them to a profile, sort of like Instagram does. That said, it’s important to know that you have manually limit location sharing and enable privacy settings.

There are also other photo editing tools available for purchase within the app, and these could end up costing you a lot of hard-earned money if your child downloads them.


BIGO LIVE is a live streaming app that invites people to showcase their talents and talk to interesting people. It’s increasingly being used by young people to live steam their activities or make video blogs with the objective of earning money. However, since the content is user-generated, it can include nudity, bad language, and violence.

Final Word

The apps listed above cannot be blamed in any way for how they are used, after all, a user needs to be smarter than an app. Plus, asking your kids to stop using any app isn’t the ideal way to stop them from getting exposed to online threats. After all, from one way to another, they may try to find any other app and start using it.

The best way is to stay cautious of the dangers of the apps your kids are using and educate them on their hazards. Plus, you may also use encryption tools like a VPN service to hide your kids’ location and paralyze hackers from getting access to their location and personal information.

Mohsin Qadir

An information security analyst in the making, a father of an adorable kid and a technology writer (Contributor). He can be found lurking around top network security blogs, looking for scoops on information security and privacy trends.

And the worst social media app for mental health is…

By: Lynn Hutley

In a study of social networking sites’ effects on young people’s mental health, Instagram was found to have the most negative consequences, while YouTube was seen as the most positive.

Earlier this year, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) surveyed about 1,500 individuals across the United Kingdom aged 14-24, asking them to score social media in terms of the impact they have on issues of health and well-being. These issues included emotional support, anxiety, self-expression, body image, fear of missing out and more.

The results ranked YouTube as the most positive followed by Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and, finally, Instagram.

“It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and well-being,” said Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of the RSPH. “Both platforms are very image-focused, and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”

While the RSPH tries to make future policy changes as a result of the study, there are things you can do to support young people on social media now.

“I would caution parents to limit access to electronic media and to monitor usage,” says Dr. Rhoda Gottfried, adolescent psychiatrist with Advocate Medical Group in Bloomington, Ill. “Monitoring seems cliché, but I think many parents are not monitoring what is happening in the online life of their children. It is just as important as knowing whose house they are at for a sleepover.”

“Social media is not necessarily a bad thing,” says Dr. David Milligan, pediatrician with Advocate Children’s Medical Group and Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “However, it is important for parents to educate their children on the good and bad aspects of social media and to monitor their usage. Discuss healthy body image with your child(ren). Also be sure to let your child(ren) know that things shared on social media can be accessed by almost anyone.”

Instagram Is the Worst Social Media Platform for Your Mental Health

A fit-fluencer’s six-pack. Double tap. Scroll. A happy vacay beach selfie. Double tap. Scroll. A fab-looking birthday party with everyone dressed to the nines. Double tap. Scroll.

Your current status? Old bathrobe, feet up on the couch, no makeup, yesterday’s hair-and no filter is going to make it look otherwise.

This is one reason why Instagram, as it turns out, might just be the worst social media platform for your mental health, according to a new report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the U.K. As part of the report, the RSPH polled almost 1,500 young adults from the U.K. (14 to 24 years old) about the mental and emotional effects of the most popular social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube. The survey included questions about emotional support, anxiety and depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, sleep, body image, real-world relationships, and FOMO (fear of missing out). The survey found that Instagram, in particular, resulted in the worst body image, anxiety, and depression scores.


It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why. Instagram is the most curated and blatantly filtered of the main social media platforms. You can facetune, luxe, and filter until you’re (literally) blue in the face, or contour a bigger booty or brighter eyes with the tap of a button. (And there are plenty of posing tricks to take better Instas to begin with.) All this visual perfection can promote “a ‘compare and despair’ attitude,” according to the report-which results when you compare your day-to-day life and makeup-free face with the #flawless selfies and luxurious vacations you see on your feed.

The safest social vice? YouTube, which was the only one to have a net-positive effect on viewers, according to this study. The researchers found that it only had a significantly negative effect on sleep, and a small negative effect on body image, bullying, FOMO, and relationships IRL. Twitter scored second place, Facebook third, and Snapchat fourth, each with progressively worse scores for anxiety and depression, FOMO, bullying, and body image. (FYI, this contradicts a previous report that showed that Snapchat was the best bet for social media–fueled happiness.)

On the flip side, all of the social media apps were linked with higher self-expression, self-identity, community building, and emotional support-so, no, scrolling and swiping isn’t 100 percent evil.

There’s been plenty of debate on the advantages and downsides of social media, and just how to use it to get the highs without the lows. (Repeat after me: Put down the smartphone in bed.) But it’s no coincidence that the rise of the digital era-and the onslaught of “look at my fabulous life!” social media-is accompanied by a serious increase in mental health issues in young people. In fact, rates of anxiety and depression in young people have risen by a whopping 70 percent in the past 25 years, according to the report. (It’s not just Instagram. Having too many social apps has been linked with an increased risk for these issues too.)

In the end, social media is pretty addictive, and the chances you’re willing to ditch it completely are slim to none, health effects be damned. If you find yourself feeling down from a marathon scrolling sesh, try switching over to feel-good hashtags like #LoveMyShape, these other body-positive tags, or the “Oddly Satisfying” Instagram wormhole-watching those weird videos is actually a lot like a mini meditation.

  • By Lauren Mazzo @lauren_mazzo

Killing Instagram Likes: Will It Really Improve Users’ Mental Health?

The recent move by social media giant Instagram to make “like” counts private for some US users is getting a cautious thumbs-up from mental health experts who say it’s a good first step in alleviating some of the psychological distress linked to social media use.

Many believe it may eliminate some of the tension and “toxicity” around the perception, particularly among younger users, that the number of Instagram post “likes” are an indicator of self-worth.

Research shows some young Instagram users report feeling like a failure and unpopular when their posts don’t receive many “likes.”

The change means Instagram users will still see who liked their post but “like” counts aren’t visible to followers.

Reducing Psychological Stress

On November 8, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced the move, reportedly saying the motivation behind it is to safeguard users’ mental health and well-being.

“We will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s well-being and health,” Mosseri reportedly said when he made the announcement last week at Wired25, a conference that is focused on “experiences and conversations about the future and the use of tech for good.”

Instagram first tested hiding likes from public view in Canada and subsequently expanded it to other countries, including Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand, before testing the rollout in some US users last week. As of 2018, it is estimated that 105 million Americans use Instagram.

Recent research shows that Instagram and other social media platforms can have a positive impact on young people.

A 2017 survey conducted by the University of Chicago, in collaboration with the Associated Press, showed that among 790 American teens aged 13 to 17, 78% reported social media makes them feel closer to friends, 49% reported it makes them more informed, and 42% reported it helps connect them to family.

However, social media use can also leave youth feeling inadequate and unworthy. In the same survey, 15% of respondents reported feeling pressure to always show the best version of themselves, 10% reported experiencing information overload, and another 9% reported feeling overwhelmed or fearful of missing out.

The survey also showed that 58% of teens have taken a break from at least one social media platform.

Other research has linked social media use in youth to more serious mental health consequences, including depression and anxiety.

Many blame social media for feelings of isolation among young people. Suicide rates have increased by 30% in 30 years and National Institute of Mental Health data show suicide is now the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34.

Several experts contacted by Medscape Medical News believe this initiative is a good first step in mitigating some of the psychological distress linked to social media use, but that more needs to be done to ensure users’ mental health and well-being.

Dr Vinu Ilakkuvan

Experimenting with different changes to social media platforms and assessing their impact on mental health and well-being, especially of teenagers, has the potential to be helpful,” Vinu Ilakkuvan, DrPH, George Washington University, Washington, DC, who has studied health risks linked to social media, told Medscape Medical News.

Changes that prove beneficial to mental health and well-being could be “scaled up and implemented widely across social media platforms,” said Ilakkuvan.

However, she would like to know how Instagram and independent researchers plan to evaluate how hiding public “likes” impacts stress, depression, and other mental health outcomes.

Driven by Profit

In addition, Ilakkuvan noted that “likes” are just one aspect of the social media environment.

“The overall time spent on social media, exposure to advertising, the type of content shared by peers, comments from others, and a range of other factors can also contribute to negative mental health and well-being.”

Ilakkuvan also cautioned against overestimating the value of voluntary tests by social media companies.

“At the end of the day, these companies are driven by profit, and will make more money the longer they keep users on their site,” she said.

She would like more thought put into external regulations to help create a healthier social media environment.

“Trusting those who seek to make a profit from these platforms to self-regulate can only take us so far,” Ilakkuvan said.

Instagram’s decision may reduce “approval anxiety,” which can contribute more broadly to “digital distress,” Ric G. Steele, PhD, professor and director of the Clinical Child Psychology Program at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, told Medscape Medical News.

Approval anxiety is the constant worry about responses and reactions of others to one’s posts, photos, or other digital content, said Steele.

“For example, some social media users will carefully craft and edit their posts to ensure a higher number of ‘likes,’ or they may post at particular times of the day in attempts to get more ‘likes.’ Others may remove online content out of concern that others will see that a post has few or no ‘likes,’ he added.

However, Steele noted that individual users are still able to see and quantify the number of likes on his or her post, so they can still “take notice of others’ approval of the content, which may do little to alleviate digital anxiety.”

Steele said he is unaware of anyone experimentally testing the degree to which changing the public visibility of the “likes” impacts digital stress. “But conceptually, it stands to reason that decreasing the public quantifiability of ‘likes’ could lessen distress associated with approval anxiety.”

Connected but Lonely

Sue Varma, MD, a psychiatrist in private practice and clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, agrees there should be more research.

Dr Sue Varma

“We need to continue the conversation, follow the stats, survey more people about which features produce the most anxiety and then do longitudinal outcome studies,” she told Medscape Medical News.

For Varma, the Instagram change “shows that stakeholders get the point and are trying to be responsible.” However, like Ilakkuvan, she wants to see more social media companies follow Instagram’s example.

Varma said she herself is on multiple social media platforms and feels the intense pressure “to keep up.” She noted that social media can be very challenging for adults but it is an even greater challenge for youth.

Adolescents’ brains are still developing, as is their sense of identity, and they face a myriad of social, academic and sexual pressures, said Varma.

“Teens shouldn’t have to worry about their self-worth, in the real world or in cyberspace. Let social media be a place for expression, creativity, and connection, not competition,” said Varma.

However, competition is exactly what some social media platforms seem to foster. Users take the number of followers and likes as an indication of how important or socially relevant someone is, Varma said, “without even looking at the quality of the feeds or whether the content makes them feel good.”

“The ‘likes’ feature sets up the brain to become a social media junkie — your brain craves the hits and, for some people, it takes over their lives,” she added.

While social comparisons have always existed, the Internet has pushed this phenomenon to new heights. “It’s in your face, always accessible, 24/7.”

Social media also affects relationships. Today’s teens, she said, are constantly on social media and, as a result, they are losing the opportunity to develop critically important life skills, Varma added.

“It’s clearly a paradox that we are more connected than ever before and yet lonely,” she said.

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Instagram’s move to eliminate ‘likes’ could improve mental health of the social media platform’s users

Credit: Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

A number of Instagram users in the U.S. soon will go to double-tap a post and not see any change in the number of likes underneath it. Actually, the likes won’t be there at all.

The decision to hide like counts for some users, announced last week by Instagram’s chief executive officer, Adam Mosseri, is being hailed by some as a step in the right direction, while others, such as influencers and brands, are getting nervous that the loss of likes will lessen their prominence. With the changes, users will still be able to like and comment on photos or videos, but only the content creator will be able to see the number of people who have liked the post.

Rachel Rodgers, an associate professor in the Department of Applied Psychology at Northeastern, says this change could have a positive effect on the mental wellness of users of the social media platform. Doing away with like counts could help reduce anxiety in teens who evaluate their self-worth primarily based on feedback from online followers or in comparing the number of likes their posts receive to their friends, she says.

“The research with younger people in particular does tend to show that there’s a lot of anxiety around the feedback that posts receive and that are in particular related to appearance,” she says. “And so, if you’re lessening to some extent the way in which the feedback is an important part of what people are getting from Instagram, then you lessen that pressure.”

One reason that some users develop an addiction to likes, suggests Rodgers, could be the same reason that a student might want to show off a new haircut to friends at school: social validation, the psychological theory that holds that we conform to a group and follow the actions set by the group in order to gain trust and fit in. Thus, as social beings, we gravitate toward platforms such as Instagram for feedback and socialization, Rodgers says.

“We are essentially social people and a lot of the way we navigate the world is based on the feedback that we get from other people,” she says. “So we think about social media as being a super peer in that you get that feedback that you would get from your friends at school from a much wider pool of people.”

Another psychological theory at play on social media is social identity theory, which holds that one of the ways that we gauge how well we’re doing as individuals is by comparing our standing to other people on a number of traits, including appearance, says Rodgers.

“The likes on images, particularly images that are selfies, is one of the ways that we engage in this social appearance comparison process in the online world,” Rodgers says. “Given that we are socialized to believe that appearance is a very core dimension of identity, the likes that one receives, particularly on selfie postings, become very important.”

Instagram’s Mosseri rationalized removing the metric, which has already been implemented in several countries, including Canada and Australia, as an attempt to create a “less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”

Social media, and Instagram in particular, has been linked to increased levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying, and fear of missing out. In an effort to create a safer space for users, Instagram has made both subtle and significant changes to its platform over the past year. In the last two months, Instagram announced it would ban filters that change facial features and restrict posts that promote weight-loss products and cosmetic surgery. Rodgers commended these changes as a “positive move.”

“It sends the message, regardless of how successful it is, that this is something that big social media corporations care about and that it’s on their radar, that there is the risk for some of the ways that these platforms are used to be detrimental to body image and other areas of mental health,” she says. “But it’s also useful that these effects are going to become more difficult to use.”

Time will tell how effective these measures will be on users’ mental health, says Rodgers. She remains optimistic.

“It would be wonderful if it did indeed lessen some of that competition and therefore it decreased some of the negative mental health effects that have been documented around self-esteem and mood,” she says.

Explore further

Instagram test of hiding ‘likes’ spreading to US Provided by Northeastern University Citation: Instagram’s move to eliminate ‘likes’ could improve mental health of the social media platform’s users (2019, November 18) retrieved 1 February 2020 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

The Parent’s Guide to Instagram

Full Guide (PDF)
Quick-Guide (PDF)

Instagram is a social media app used by more than one billion people around the world to share photos, videos and messages. Whether it’s through Stories, Feed, Live, IGTV (an app from Instagram that lets users share longer videos) or Direct, teens use Instagram to celebrate big milestones, share everyday moments, keep in touch with friends and family, build communities of support and meet others who share their passions and interests. It runs on the Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch as well as Android phones and tablets.

Instagram lets you follow people and be followed by them, but unlike Facebook it’s not necessarily a two-way street. You can follow someone even if they don’t follow you and vice versa. Users with a private account can control who can follow them. Unless you change the default to private, anyone can see what you post.

Posting on Instagram

Posting on Instagram is easy: You take a picture or up to 60 seconds of video and have the option to customize it with filters and other creative tools. Then you hit Next to add a caption and location and tag people in the picture and choose how you want to share – just to your Instagram followers or outside the app, via email, Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. You can also use Instagram to “broadcast” a live video. (More on that later.)

There are four ways to share on Instagram: privately, publicly, directly and via Instagram Stories. With Instagram Direct, you have the option to share a particular photo privately to a group of people (15 max), whether or not you follow them or they follow you. You can also share via Instagram Stories where your post or live video can be seen by your followers for up to 24 hours. As with all digital media, even a disappearing Story, video or photo can be captured by other users, so never assume that what you post will necessarily be irretrievable after 24 hours.

If your kids are using Instagram, the best way for you to learn about how it works is to ask them. Kids are often glad to teach their parents about their favorite tech tools and asking them about Instagram is not only a great way to learn about the app itself but also about how your children interact with their friends on social media. That’s very individual, which is why we suggest you ask them about it, but if you want a little general information about using and staying safe in Instagram, here goes:

Responsible sharing

You control your privacy. By default, photos and videos you share in Instagram can be seen by anyone (unless you share them directly) but you can easily make your account private, so you get to approve anyone who wants to follow you. In most cases, we recommend that teens make their account private, but parents of older teens might consider making an exception in some cases, as we discuss later in the guide.

To make the account private, tap the profile button (an icon of a person on the bottom right and then the options button in iOS) or the 3 vertical dots in Android. Scroll down to Account Privacy and Private Account and move the slider to the right. The slider will turn blue once the account is private.

If your teen already has a public account, they can switch to private at any time; they can also go from private to public. They can remove followers, choose who can comment and more. Your teen can also turn off Show Activity Status so friends can’t see when they’re online.

Instagram Direct is automatically private. Anyone, including people you don’t follow, can send you an image or video that only you and up to 32 other people can see or comment on. If you follow that person, the message will appear in your inbox. If you don’t follow the person, it’ll arrive as a request in your inbox. To decline or allow the message, swipe left on the message and tap Decline or Allow.

Instagram Stories aren’t necessarily private, but they do disappear after 24 hours from public view unless you add them to highlights. Never post anything that is inappropriate, harmful or can get you into trouble, but if you just want to post something silly that won’t be part of your “permanent record,” Stories might be your best option.

Privacy can’t be perfect. Even if your posts are private, your profile is public (anyone can see your profile photo, username and bio). You can add up to 10 lines of text about yourself, so parents and kids may want to talk about what’s appropriate to say or link to on their bio screens.

Respect other people’s privacy. If someone else is in a photo you post, make sure that person’s OK with your sharing or tagging them in it.

Your posts have impact. Think about how media you post affects others. Sometimes it’s the friends who aren’t in the photo or video who can be hurt, because they feel excluded.

Think about your location-sharing. In most cases, your child should avoid posting their exact location when they upload a photo or video. Advise them not to add locations to their posts or use hashtags that reveal their location. To prevent Instagram from capturing your location on the iPhone, go to the phone’s settings and tap Instagram. Tap Location and select Never. With recent versions of Android, go to the phone’s settings, tap Apps and notifications, click on Instagram, select permissions and uncheck Location (older versions of Android may be different). Turning off location in Instagram does not hide your location when using other apps.

Sharing beyond Instagram. By default, you’re sharing your media only on Instagram, but you have the option to share more widely by clicking on “Email,” “Facebook,” “Twitter,” etc., then Share. If you do share elsewhere, be aware of the privacy settings on that service. For example, unless your Twitter profile is private, Twitter shares to everyone by default, including media shared from your Instagram account, regardless of your Instagram privacy settings. Facebook, by default, will share media posted from Instagram to friends only. But after you share on Facebook, you can change that setting in Facebook by selecting it and changing the audience.

How you represent yourself

Your media represent you. That probably seems obvious but remember it can keep on representing you well into the future, because content posted online or with phones is sometimes impossible to take back. So it’s a good idea to think about how what you post now will reflect on you later. If you think it might hurt a job prospect, damage a relationship or upset your grandmother, consider not sharing it. If you later decide it’s not appropriate, delete it. A lot of teens spend time reviewing their posts when it’s time to apply for college or a job.

Manage your visibility. The photos you’re tagged in can be visible to anyone unless your account is private. Others can tag you in photos they post but, if you don’t like the way you’re shown, you can hide a photo from your profile or untag yourself (it’ll still be visible on Instagram but not associated with your username and not in your profile). If you don’t want photos to appear on your profile automatically, tap (profile button), then (options button), and select Photos of You. Deselect Add Automatically. (Android users, tap the three small squares.)

Consider the whole image. What’s in the background of a photo or video could indicate where it was taken or what the people in it were doing at the time. Is that information you want to convey?

Your media could show up anywhere. Instagram videos can be embedded in any website, and it’s important to remember that anything digital can be copied and shared by others. So even if you limit the audience, be careful not to share anything that could be a problem if someone were to pass it around.

Use a strong password, and don’t share it. This gives you some control over how you’re represented in social media because other people won’t be able to use your password to impersonate you. Also use different passwords for different services (for advice on passwords visit

Keep perspective. Remember that Instagram often represents a highlight reel of someone’s life. Some Instagram users spend a lot of time on Instagram making themselves look really good or their life seem extra interesting. We’re not suggesting that you don’t try to look good online or post your life’s highlights, but try not to fall into the comparison trap. People rarely post about their sad or boring moments, but everyone has them.

What to do if you’re being harassed

Block someone if necessary. If someone’s harassing you, such as repeatedly tagging you in photos you don’t like or sending you a lot of direct messages or trying to engage you in a creepy conversation, you can block them so they can’t tag you, contact you directly or mention you in comments. They also won’t be able to see your profile or search for your account. To block a user, go to his or her profile, tap the three dots at the top right, and select Block. When you block an account, that person isn’t notified and you can unblock an account at any time.

Report problematic posts. You can report other people’s inappropriate photos, videos, stories, or comments – or users who violate Instagram’s community guidelines. Just click on the three dots next to the username, then Report.

You can untag yourself. Only the person who posts can tag people in the post, but – if that person’s profile is public – anyone tagged by the poster can untag themselves. You can untag yourself by tapping on your username in a post, but only if the post is public or if you follow the person who tagged you.

Ignore messages labeled “Request”. If you don’t want to receive a message from someone you don’t know, ignore any messages in your inbox marked Request. If you want to see images only from people you know, limit who you follow.

To report a photo or video:

  • Tap the three dots next to the photo you’d like to report and then Report.

To report a comment:

  • Tap the message bubble below the comment. Swipe left over the comment (iPhone) or tap and hold the comment (Android) you’d like to report. Tap the ! button and choose Spam or Scam or Abusive Content.

Managing comments

Instagram users can control who can comment on their photos and videos. In the Comment Controls section of the app settings, they can choose to: allow comments from everyone, people they follow and those people’s followers, just the people they follow, or their followers. Teens can also remove comments entirely from their posts.

Instagram also has controls that help you manage the content you see and determine when comments are offensive or intended to bully or harass. There are filters that automatically remove offensive words and phrases and bullying comments. Your teen can also create their own list of words or emojis they don’t want to appear in the comments section when they post by going to Filters in the Comment Controls section. However, we’re not at the stage where “artificial intelligence” can remove everything that’s offensive, depressing or annoying. Teens should continue to look at the comments and delete any that they find inappropriate or bothersome.

To delete a comment:

  1. Tap below the photo or tap any comment
  2. Swipe left over the comment (iPhone) or tap and hold the comment (Android) you’d like to delete
  3. Tap the trash symbol

Tools for helping to control how much time you or your teen spends on Instagram

Instagram (and Facebook) have launched tools to help users better understand and manage how much time they’re spending on the services.

  • Access these controls on Instagram by tapping Your Activity in the settings menu.
  • At the top, you’ll see a dashboard showing your average time on that device. Tap any bar to see your total time for that day.
  • Below the dashboard, you can set a daily reminder to give yourself an alert when you’ve reached the amount of time you want to spend on the app for that day.
  • You can change or cancel the reminder at any time. You can also tap on Notification Settings to quickly access the new Mute Push Notifications setting. This will limit your Instagram notifications for a period of time.

You’re all caught up

Instagram has also added a “You’re all caught up” message to let people know they’re all caught up to date on everything their friends and communities are up to. This can relieve the pressure that some teens feel to be constantly checking Instagram to make sure they’re not missing anything.

Knowing who you’re following

Instagram has added an “About This Account” tool that provides details about accounts that reach “a large audience,” including when the account started, the country in which it’s located, other accounts with shared followers and any username changes in the last year and any ads the account is currently running. It won’t help your teen when it comes to most individual Instagram users, but it will give them information about accounts from celebrities, companies and others with large followings.

To learn more about an account, go to their Profile, tap the … menu and then select About This Account.

Instagram has also instituted a verification badge, similar to Facebook’s, that celebrities, journalists, politicians, companies and other prominent account holders use to prove that they are who they say they are. This information could help your teen avoid following fake accounts impersonating as public figures and celebrities.

Why some teens have more than one account

There are two words your kids probably know – “Rinsta” and “Finsta.” Rinsta stands for “real Instagram account.” The f in “Finsta” stands for fake.

For teens who have both types of accounts, their “real” Instagram (“Rinsta”) is probably tightly curated for a wider audience and their “fake” Instagram (“Finsta”) is used for a close circle of friends. There’s nothing sinister about a teen having more than one Instagram account – it’s how they project their different sides to different audiences. The Rinsta for their polished, idealized selves, and the Finsta for their casual, authentic side, where they can let their guard down a bit, act silly and not edit out every blemish.

Closing thoughts for parents

Instagram is one of many social media apps for smartphones and no single service, app or tool covers all digital social activities or even a single category, but research shows that socializing face-to-face is still the main event for teens.

Remember that your kids can be on Instagram even if they’re not on Instagram. Sounds unlikely, but not in social media. Even if a parent bans all social media, his or her child’s photo and other information can be posted by friends via their accounts. And for teens, there’s the fear of missing out that even has its own acronym, “FOMO.” While not all teens need to or necessarily even want to use social media apps, for many it’s embedded into their social lives. Of course, parents should help their teen make good choices, but banning social media may not be the best solution.

There are many options for digital socializing, with new ones popping up on different platforms all the time. Some do a better job of protecting privacy and safety than others, and parents can’t possibly be on top of all of them. We also can’t always understand the context of photos, videos and comments our kids are part of in social media. That’s why it’s important to keep the lines of communication with your kids as open as possible and work together to figure out what’s appropriate for them, in terms of safety, privacy, reputation and time management. It generally just works better to talk with our kids about their favorite tools – with genuine interest, not fear – because they’re more likely to come to you if they ever need help.

Finally, we all need balance in our lives. You and your kids need to take breaks from your devices. Use Instagram’s time management tools and, set family policies that apply to parents as well. Having dinner together without devices, turning off (or at least silencing) devices at bedtime and making sure that tech use is balanced with exercise, school work and other activities is all part of a healthy lifestyle.

Top 5 Questions from Parents

1. Why do teens love Instagram?

Because they love consuming and creating media, sharing it and socializing, and Instagram makes all that doable in a simple, eye-catching way. Teens also like the ability to create “stories” that disappear after 24 hours.

2. Does Instagram have a minimum age?

Yes, it’s 13, in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. But Instagram doesn’t ask users to specify their age, and, despite the rules, there are many younger children who use the service, often with their parents’ permission. Instagram will delete underage accounts if they’re notified and can’t verify that the user is over 13.

3. What are the risks in using Instagram?

Though there’s nothing inherently dangerous about Instagram, the main things parents worry about are typical of all social media: mean behavior among peers, inappropriate photos or videos that can hurt a teen’s reputation or attract the wrong kind of attention, overuse, and of course, privacy. Parents are also concerned that people their kids don’t know can reach out to them directly. Kids can learn to reduce the likelihood of these risks, which is why we wrote this guide.

4. Are there tools to help limit how much time your kids spend on Instagram?

Instagram now offers tools to help users of any age better manage the time they spend using the app. That includes an activity dashboard, a daily reminder and enhanced ways to limit notifications. As we explain later in the guide, you can access these tools from Instagram’s settings menu.

5. Should my teen’s profile be private?

We recommend teens have a private account so that only followers they approve can see their posts in the Photos tab of Search & Explore or on hashtag or location pages. (Accounts are public by default.) A more public presence may be appropriate for some older teens, such as those who are advocating for a cause, raising money for charity or participating in discussions about sports, issues or hobbies. If you think your older teen might benefit from a public account, be sure to speak with them about how to avoid posting anything that could jeopardize their safety, personal privacy or reputation. It’s important to note that Instagram’s privacy settings don’t follow if the posts are shared to Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Instead, the privacy settings for those services will apply.

Why Instagram is bad

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