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If I oversaw Instagram for one week, unlike Twitter’s new CEO, I would not be making free speech a priority. My goal would be to make Instagram a platform that valued mental health and positivity. The first thing I would change is the availability of the app. The app would be closed one hour at a time for every other hour of the day. During the hours Instagram is closed, the only thing users would be able to see is a blank screen with the app’s logo. This rule would be implemented with the purpose of preventing users from media overconsumption. This is because many reports, surveys, and research show a link between time spent on social media and decreased levels of perceived emotional support and self-esteem. There is so much content on the app regarding countries’ political divide, horrifying news stories, or other traumatizing material. Although it is important to keep public discourse and stay informed on current events, I do not believe humans are mentally equipped to know how cruel this world can be. I think there is truth and value in the phrase, “ignorance is bliss.” Being too aware of Earth’s calamities can result in overwhelming feelings of despair and hopelessness. Social media overconsumption has also been known to increase fears of missing out and social anxiety. I would instate this availability rule to encourage users performing offline activities like going outside in nature, having in-person conversations, or even to sleep longer.
I would add more features on the app to block and detect any forms of hate speech, or discriminatory words. These features would also block any threatening messages perceived to have an intent to harm or cause extreme distress. These features would be put in place to make Instagram a safe space for any person to use. It would also decrease cyberbullying activity which could lead to improved mental health statuses. More than 30% of Instagram users are below the age of 25 years old (Dixon, 2023). People in this age range have minds that are still developing or just reached maturity. This targeted audience is using Instagram at a time they are most impressionable to content/messages. It is important to consider the long-term effects of a society raised with online social media readily available. We have never witnessed a time in history like this. If social media accounts like Instagram continue to display mentally damaging content to its viewers, future generations could reach adulthood with hindered mental capabilities. They might not be able to tolerate challenges as well as other generations raised having stronger mental health.
My last alteration to Instagram would be to instate a policy requiring all advertisers to donate a certain amount of money (depending on the size of their campaign) to organizations that provide free mental or behavioral health services for people in need. There is a major concern around the world, and especially in the US, that people do not have access or the resources for affordable mental healthcare. Because social media accounts like Instagram have been linked to increased mental illnesses, this policy would help combat the app’s contribution to that.
S. Dixon, & 31, J. (2023, January 31). U.S. Instagram users by age group 2022. Statista. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/398166/us-instagram-user-age-distribution
Anna Earle, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s media law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question: "If you were in charge of Instagram for one week, what changes would you make to the platform?"Anna is an Integrated Marketing Communications major.
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