According to a 2019 American Psychiatric Association poll, 38% of adults feel that social media can be harmful to their mental health, and now, popular apps like Snapchat are working to address that. On Feb. 11, which also marked Safer Internet Day, Snapchat revealed a new mental health tool that connects users with expert resources when they search potentially triggering topics.
Snapchat's new feature, called "Here For You," is aimed at making the app an overall safer place for users, and will be rolled out over the next few months. Once it's available, people who search topics related to anxiety, depression, stress, grief, suicidal thoughts, or bullying might notice mental health resources pop up as well. If you're wondering what this looks like in practice, Fast Company gives the example of someone searching the term "thinspo," which could be linked to pro-anorexia content. In that case, the user may notice content from mental health experts in their search results.
There's a good deal of research that helps explain why Snapchat is adding this feature. In particular, a 2018 study in the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology suggested there's a link between social media use and feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. And when you take into account that an estimated 2.65 billion people used social media platforms in 2018, these findings become that much more urgent. While no one can limit how much time you spend on social media, popular platforms can try to take certain matters — like search results — into their own hands.
And this doesn't just apply to adults who use social media — Snapchat is also popular among younger people. Vice President of Global Policy at Snapchat, Jen Stout, told Fast Company, “We feel a real responsibility to try to make a positive impact with some of our youngest, sometimes most vulnerable users on our platform.” According to a 2018 Influencer Marketing Hub report, about 78% of the app's users were between the age of 18 and 24.
Along with the new features, Snapchat's Support Twitter account put out several tweets about Safer Internet Day, reminding users of different ways they can protect themselves while using the app. Some of these tips include not friending anyone you don't know in real life, creating a more secure password, and remembering that even though Snaps may disappear, people can find ways to screenshot them without your knowledge.