During the F8 developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg declared that he plans to make the Facebook experience more private and give people more space to express themselves more freely. He tried to paint a picture of change due to the ever-increasing, 360-degree pressure on the social network. In such conversations regarding Facebook’s critique, Instagram often ends up avoiding the flak by painting a happy picture full of colorful stories and pictures.
However, not everything is fine in Instagram’s colorful garden. As reported by The Guardian, a 16-year-old Malaysian girl killed herself after posting an Instagram poll and asking her followers if she should die; about 69% of the respondents chose death.
After the incident, several Malaysian lawmakers have urged the administration to investigate the reports. Ramkarpal Singh, a Malaysian member of the parliament and a lawyer, suggested that her followers who voted for her death should be held responsible. He added that there are chances that the girl would’ve been alive if the netizens didn’t encourage her to commit suicide. “Would she have heeded the advice of netizens to seek professional help had they done so?” Singh said.
Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, the country’s youth and sports minister, also called for an investigation into the worsening mental health of Malaysian youth and the impact of social media on increasing self-harm incidents.
Responding to the unfortunate incident, Ching Yee Wong, Instagram Head of Communications, urged everyone to use the in-built reporting tool to contact emergency services whenever needed.
The most damaging platforms
In 2017, a report published by RSPH and the Young Health Movement (YHM) found that Instagram and Snapchat are the most damaging to the mental wellbeing of young users. It was found that due to the image-centric nature of these platforms, teens easily find themselves filled with a sense of inadequacy and low self-confidence.
Following another incident of the suicide of a British girl in February, whose parents believed that her exposure to self-harm content on social media was the main reason, Instagram launched “sensitivity screens” to hide such images. The recent incident intimates that parents, Instagram, and authorities need to take more steps.
It’s worth noting that social media has become an indispensable part of the lives of today’s youth and we have a major responsibility at our disposal to find an effective way to connect with their emotions and mental state. Apps like Instagram have also changed the way we socialize and make important decisions, so it’s the need of the hour to make sure that we lay the foundation for the upcoming generations to help them understand the ramifications of getting deeply involved in the virtual world.