Recently, Instagram has received a lot of scrutiny. Being accused of playing a role in Molly Russell’s death, does Instagram deserve such criticisms, or are people taking it too far?
Without a doubt, every criticism Instagram gets is deserved. The death of 14 year old Molly Russell is the only evidence anyone needs to be convinced of this. If you haven’t already heard about the suicide of Molly Russell in 2017, it has been realised that prior to taking her own life, she viewed content on Instagram that promoted the idea of self-harm and suicide.
While nobody knows the extent of the impact this content had on Molly’s decision, imagine if somebody told you your son or daughter had been viewing content on social media that promoted killing themselves. The worst part about all of this is that Instagram actually encourages this ridiculous content. They may not literally say they do, but the way hashtags work on Instagram, you can type in literally anything you want into the hashtags section, including #selfharm and #suicide. And guess what comes up – pictures, videos and quotes encouraging these terrible acts.
Oh, but Instagram has added a pointless message that comes up on the screen warning you that this content might be inappropriate. For instance, this comes up on your screen if you view the hashtag ‘suicide’:
Of course, anyone who sees that message just clicks ‘See Posts Anyway’ and continues on to view disturbing content. Great job, Instagram. You’ve successfully stopped literally nobody from viewing content encouraging suicide.
Now that we’ve discovered Instagram does nothing to stop you from accessing these pages, let’s take a look at just how bad these pages are. So maybe 1 or 2 pictures come up? Oh no, it’s far worse than that. For the suicide hashtag alone, there have been over 8 million posts uploaded. This means there have potentially been 8 million posts uploaded to Instagram that glorify suicide, that anybody can view, at any time, with zero restrictions. Take a look at this image, and even worse, take a look at the comment left by the owner.
That’s right. The person who posted this, @sadvibes.101, is encouraging their followers, of whom there are almost 10,000, to continue following and engage with content that is inevitably pushing them further into this negative mindset. Imagine if all you viewed on Instagram were depressing pictures and quotes, while you are already depressed. This is the key. To even search for these topics is a major sign the person is already depressed or mentally unstable. For Instagram to just allow these people to continually view such content is ludicrous.
Molly Russell’s father revealed on This Morning last week that the only action he had seen taken since the death of his daughter almost 2 years ago, was the introduction of the warning pages. Are you kidding me? How much of a sociopath do you need to be to sit down and say, “You know what, we’re going to add a warning message to make it look like we’re making changes, when really we just don’t want to lose engagement on our site.” This is a complete disgrace, and Instagram should be ashamed. But of course, we know they don’t feel this way, because they’re not actually doing anything. They just continue to let posts promoting death and depression contribute to their little hashtag feeds. Whoopy for Instagram, you heartless idiots. Oh wait, they’re not idiots, because they know exactly what they are doing. Even better.
In all honesty, I think it should be totally illegal for Instagram to do what they’re doing. And surprisingly, at least one member of parliament agrees with me. Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, warned on the Andrew Marr Show recently that parliament has the sanction to “ban” social media.
Now, Hancock also acknowledges that banning social media is not where he’d “like to end up”, due to there being a “great positive to social media, too”. I’d have to agree with him. I may have absolutely grilled social media in this article, but social media can also be a place of positivity and support. It’s always interesting to see what’s going on in other people’s lives, right? Besides, I promote my articles on Instagram! I would say they might be banned from Instagram after this, but then again, they don’t seem to ban much, do they now?
For Instagram not to put greater restrictions on such content is mind-blowing. I don’t care if it’s extremely difficult for Instagram to go about banning content, but it’s not really relevant. If extremely worrying content is uploaded by individuals, surely Instagram needs to seek out these accounts, and offer genuine support to these individuals. But not just with a little warning signal that comes up on the screen. Rather, with personalised messages or emails that show genuine concern and understanding. Instagram has a responsibility to help desperate people who are using their platform.
And while I am directing Instagram in this article, I express my views to all social medias. Poisonous content is just as easily able to be uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and all the rest of them. But being the most active social media right now, Instagram has the greatest responsibility, and can set the example for other social medias. Regardless, these companies all have a collective responsibility to ensure their audience is safe on their app.
Either a solution is thought of, or social media should be shut down until one is developed.