Instagram's New Tools May Be Life-Saving

It's no secret that social media has become a defining aspect of youth culture; we've become a generation of self-definition, self-representation, and hashtag activism. But social media can also be incredibly isolating, with studies showing that significant use correlates with higher rates of depression. In response, Instagram's new tools focusing on identifying people in crisis have been launched, providing those who mind need them with tangible resources — and hopefully doing a great deal of good in the process.

These tools, which essentially form a safety net for Instagram users, have arisen from collaboration between Instagram, Hearst Magazine Digital Media, and Seventeen. Their new initiative, #PerfectlyMe, is aimed at celebrating communities that redefine body standards, inspire confidence, and build a culture not of negativity — as so much of our world tends to do — but instead, of positivity. Search #PerfectlyMe on social media, and you'll be greeted with a host of users from across the world, proudly speaking on the importance of diverse media representation.

But sometimes, hashtags are not enough. Sometimes, help needs to be more pointed, and it needs to move from a screen to the real world. Accordingly, the function of Instagram's new tool set is two-fold: If you notice a concerning post, you now have the ability to report it anonymously. In addition, if you search certain terms that are directly self-harm-related, you'll be redirected. In either instance, users will end up on a new support page that offers the ability to speak with a friend, contact a help hotline, or gain access to tips and support.

In order to cultivate tools and resources that can actually make a difference, the #PerfectlyMe team recruited mental health experts and groups, like the National Eating Disorders Association, Dr. Nancy Zucker (Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University), Forefront (a research-based suicide prevention organization), and The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The initiative also spoke with individuals who have experienced self-harm, suicide attempts and eating disorders.

The #PerfectlyMe tools have only just launched, so there's no data yet regarding their effectiveness. However, the two-part approach of the tools' functionality does acknowledge how social media is actually used, in that there tends to be a disconnect between our public and personal lives; that acknowledgement alone is an incredibly important sign.

Images: Instagram