March began with announcements from two social media giants, Facebook and Twitter, about bold and concrete moves that they are doing to make using their platforms safer and friendlier.
The measures that Facebook and Twitter are now taking aim not just to make the social media experience more enjoyable but to also possibly save lives and protect their users' well being.
Facebook and Twitter's Bold Moves
Facebook's announcement comes with a disturbing statistic that places suicide at the top of the list of the main causes of death for 15 to 29 year olds, with a suicide around the world every 40 seconds.
In their new, more active role in the prevention of suicides, Facebook enlists the help of AI in order to detect any suicidal tendencies. Suicide prevention tools as well as crisis support through the messenger app will also be available for anyone in need.
On Twitter's end, in addition to the users' ability to report abusive tweets, new tools such as the filtering and mute options allows users to gain more control over the content that they see on their feed. They are also making more active actions against Twitter trolls by monitoring the users' behaviors themselves even without a report.
Social Media And Mental Health
A survey released in February revealed that individuals who are constantly checking their social media experience a higher level of stress compared to those who do so only once in a while.
The survey revealed that almost half of millennials are worried about the negative effects of their constant social media presence and attachment to their physical and mental health. As such, the researchers of the study suggested taking a digital detox in order to focus on their well-being.
This result chimes in with the numerous warnings about the possible negative effects of constant social media presence has on an individual's psyche including the possibility of inducing anxiety and depression.
A significant albeit indirect factor in social media's effect on mental health comes from the depressive and anxiety inducing effects of envy and comparing one's life to others. A more damaging and direct impact, however, comes from cyber bullying. In fact, it has been seen that cyber bullying increases the risk for depression and anxiety especially among children.
In this regard, Facebook and Twitter's active actions are significantly moving in a positive direction that can lead to a healthier, more positive social media experience. With a cleaner feed, the knowledge that you can easily report trolls and other abusive users, and easy access to support via messenger and their many partners in the cause, users can now use the platforms knowing that in some ways, they are being protected by the company's new strong efforts.
These, of course, are moves that can prevent the more actively negative acts being done by social media users to other social media users. While these are bold and highly significant moves by Facebook and Twitter in making their users feel protected from cyber bullies and trolls, the anxiety and depression inducing effects of constant social media presence is more difficult to handle as it entails a more personal decision to cut down on social media usage or even look at social media as a mere communication platform instead of a means to compare one's life to others'.