TikTok announced this morning that it is implementing new tactics to educate its users on the negative impacts of social media on mental health. As part of these changes, TikTok is rolling out a ‘wellness guide’ in its security center, a brief introduction to eating disorders, extended research interventions, and opt-in viewer screens on research. potentially triggering.
Developed in collaboration with the International Association for Suicide Prevention, Crisis Text Line, Live For Tomorrow, Samaritans of Singapore and Samaritans (UK), the new wellness guide offers more targeted advice to people using TikTok, encouraging users to think about how it might impact them to share their mental health stories on a platform where any post has the potential to go viral. TikTok wants users to think about why they’re sharing their experience, whether they’re ready for a larger audience to hear their story if sharing might hurt them, and whether they’re ready to hear other people’s stories. in response.
The platform also added a brief, albeit generic, memo on the impact of eating disorders in the “topics” section of the Safety Center, which was developed with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA ). NEDA has a long history of working with social media platforms, most recently working with Pinterest to ban ads promoting weight loss.
Already, TikTok directs users to local resources when they search for words or phrases like # suicide, * but now the platform will also share content from creators in an effort to help someone in need. The platform told TechCrunch that it chose this content after consulting with independent experts. Additionally, if someone enters a search phrase that might be alarming (TikTok offered “spooky makeup” as an example), the content will be blurry, asking users to register to see the results of the search. research.
As TikTok unveils these changes, its competitor Instagram comes under close scrutiny after the Wall Street Journal leaked documents revealing its parent company Facebook’s own research into the damage Instagram is doing to teenage girls. Similar to the Gen Z-dominated TikTok, over 40% of Instagram users are 22 or younger, and 22 million teens log onto Instagram in the United States every day. In an anecdote, a 19-year-old interviewed by the Wall Street Journal said that after researching workout ideas on Instagram, her explore page was inundated with photos on how to lose weight (Instagram a previously confessed to errors with its search function, which recommended that users search for topics such as “fasting” and “appetite suppressant”). Angela Guarda, director of the Eating Disorders Program at Johns Hopkins Hospital, told the Wall Street Journal that her patients often say they learned dangerous weight loss tactics through social media.
“The question that worries a lot of people is whether social media is good or bad for people. Research on this is mixed; it can be both, ”Instagram wrote in a blog post today.
As TikTok nods with its advice on sharing mental health stories, social media can often be a positive resource, allowing people facing certain challenges to learn from others who have had similar experiences. So, despite the disproportionate influence of these platforms, it is also up to real people to think twice about what they are posting and how it might influence others. Even when Facebook tried to hide the number of likes on Instagram, employees said that it did not improve general well-being of users. These revelations about the negative impact of social media on mental health and body image aren’t groundbreaking, but they generate renewed pressure for these powerful platforms to think about how to support their users (or, at the very least) , add some new memos to their security center).
* If you or someone you know is depressed or has thought about harming or killing yourself, The national lifeline for suicide prevention (1-800-273-8255) provides free, confidential 24/7 support to people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to help with prevention and crisis situations.