Recently, Instagram has announced new policies designed to restrict minors access to ads promoting cosmetic procedures and diet products.
Social media has become a powerful networking tool commonly utilized by younger generations, and while the explosion of social media has presented numerous benefits, there are colossal consequences observable in the deteriorating mental health of youth. Instagram reported that one billion users log on every month and 500 million of them use the app every day. Instagram’s evolution into a marketing tool has enabled sponsorship opportunities for popular accounts. Therefore, people with a large following are granted Instagram sponsorships or brand deals, through which some of these “influencers” can make a livable salary. Although social media has provided a unique outlet for business, there is harmful advertising of diet products and the glamorization of cosmetic procedures. Some influencers on Instagram do not sincerely believe in the effectiveness of the products but merely accepted a lucrative opportunity. The temptation of a paid promotional is an understandable incentive, but consequently, impressionable minds are tainted with aspirations to meet a fleeting beauty standard.
Social media’s inherent positive attributes, such as networking and self expression, make the platform appealing across various demographics. Unfortunately, there have been consequences for youth’s emotional and mental stability. 50 percent of mental health issues are established by the age of 14, and 75 percent by age 24. The National Eating Disorder Awareness Association reports that 40 percent of elementary school girls will start struggling with body image. Additionally, about half of teenage girls and a third of boys will use unhealthy mechanisms, such as throwing up, to manipulate their weight. The transitional years of adolescence into adulthood is a period when people are developing a sense of identity and purpose. While Instagram allows for quick connections and self expression, the platform can also exacerbate competition among each other for better appearances and more followers. Fortunately, Instagram has been proactive in minimizing these consequences.
In efforts to promote a healthier environment, the platform has implemented new policies blocking minors from certain posts. Any advertisements for weight loss and diet products can now be reported, and posts making miraculous claims about the results of a product will be deleted. Emma Collins, Instagram’s Public Policy Manager, announced that the management team sought guidance from a professional to effectively address the mental health issue. By holding influencers accountable for their sponsorship posts, there is potential to curtail the negative influences of social media.
There have been several accounts of questionable advertising posts from influencers. For instance, Kim Kardashian recently received backlash for promoting an appetite suppressant to her 149 million followers on Instagram. Also, Gabi DeMartino publicly discusses her cosmetic procedures such as lip injections and nose job to her 3.9 million followers. While influencers should not be shamed for their personal decisions, the controversy around whether they should openly advocate their choices to a young audience. Influencers mold the ever-changing fads and beauty standards. Because certain body types fail to meet the ideal beauty standard, vulnerable minds will begin engaging in overly self-critical behavior. Young users of social media often imitate the standards endorsed by their online role models. Therefore, the desire for societal approve will subsequently push adolescence into a weak mental headspace. Instagram’s new mental health policies will direct minors away from these suggestive sponsorships.
Hopefully other social media platforms will actively participate in establishing a positive, inclusive environment for all demographics.