This paper will investigate how online communities create a safe space for users with mental health issues to feel connected. Instagram, in particular, has been shown to lower levels of depression as it fosters a community that endorses a sense of belonging. These communities create a sense of support through a third space which is more accessible and less daunting for users than the traditional forms of ‘support’. Online communities are an environment for users that enables them to trust the community, and feel comfortable sharing their personal experiences; allowing users to further understand that their identity and mental health disorders are shared with people all over the world. These unique communities have contributed to lower levels of depression being presented in people who have Instagram due to the support systems enabled by the affordances of the platform.
Online communities provide a unique opportunity to facilitate conversations between users who present a similar identity online. One example of an online community that contributes to this is Instagram. Instagram has been reported to have over one billion active users in June 2018 (Iqual 2021). Such important conversations wouldn’t be possible without social media communities and networks as they allow users to believe that they are connected to a group (Mackson, Brochu and Schneider 2019). The size of the platform and its ability to foster connections allows for like-minded users to connect about mental health issues through both the photo-sharing platform and use of hashtags (Moreau 2018). Social media communities create an “ambient nature of digital communication technologies, with the ability to share information and indicate the attentiveness and availability of social ties” (Hampton and Wellman 2018). Depression is a common mental health disorder and is commonly described among Australian youth. “It involves low mood and/or loss of interest and pleasure in usual activities … The symptoms are experienced most days and last for at least two weeks.”(Beyond Blue 2021b). Depression is a worryingly prevalent issue in today’s society with one-fifth of Australian youth reporting mental health disorders, 80.7% of those being young Australian females who are reporting depressive disorders (Beyond Blue 2021a). Social networks, such as Instagram, have provided a unique platform to create forums and groups dedicated to the connection of female adolescent which, in turn, aids users in fighting depression.
Instagram creates a sense of belonging for users through engaging with their social identity.
Instagram breeds the feeling of belonging as users can engage with other like-minded individuals. According to Lu, belonging can be defined as “the feeling, belief, and expectation that one fits in the group and has a place there, a feeling of acceptance by the group” (Lu et al. 2021). Often when users feel a sense of belonging, they will have a shared sense of identity; this sense of identity has been proven to have a strong positive effect on depression (Lu et al. 2021). Online social communities will often help users find a niche that they can relate to. It has been recognized that when users do not feel connected, or that they don’t ‘fit’ societal norms, they tend to have a negative perception of themselves (Jiang and Ngien 2020). Instagram has an incredibly large network, allowing users to find their niche, feel connected and have a sense of belonging. It has been reported through a study conducted by Mackson that users who had an Instagram account registered lower levels of depression compared to those who did not have an account (Mackson, Brochu and Schneider 2019). Human beings crave a sense of belonging as it’s vital for gaining meaningful connections with others. This is why Instagram has been recognised as a platform that facilitates this connection, contributing to lower levels of depression.
Although Instagram commonly provides an opportunity for users to judge and discredit each other, which could cause Instagram to harm depression, users tend to neglect this opportunity and instead support each other (Mackson, Brochu and Schneider 2019). Instagram is being utilised as a tool to further a user’s social connections and engage with their social identity (Mackson, Brochu and Schneider 2019). Users will have a strong sense of identity if they are given the opportunity to define themselves within a group. This encourages users to align with that particular group’s stereotype (Lu et al. 2021), which creates a safe space. Users will be encouraged to build each other up and share personal information. This created a positive relationship between Instagram and depression as users who have Instagram have been reported to have lower levels of depression. This shared social identity builds a trusting relationship between users within a community on Instagram (Lu et al. 2021). Women have been reported to find trust as an important factor to connect with others, as trust encourages them to express their feelings (Lu et al. 2021). This has in turn allowed female users to feel a sense of connection and belongingness to others when joining online communities on Instagram (Lu et al. 2021). Furthering the understanding that Instagram has a positive relationship with users who have depression as it allows them to feel connected and part of a safe community.
Instagram better aids users to create an informational community.
Instagram has allowed users to be able to share knowledge and create a place where there is an opportunity to have an informational community. The mental health community of depressive disorders will often utilise hashtags to connect. Hashtags are utilised by this community as it allows their posts to be more accessible to a larger population (Jiang and Ngien 2020). The hashtag ‘#depression’ on Instagram will generate over 12.96 million posts (McCosker and Gerrard 2020). This hashtag allows other users to find support and communities that are relatable through reading posts with this tag (McCosker and Gerrard 2020). An important hashtag created on Instagram created by a Non-for-profit organisation, is the #RUOK (are you okay?). This hashtag aims to create and foster educational peer led conversational support for the community. it creates an accessible way for users to find information (McCosker and Gerrard 2020). Through discovering these communities’ users will often feel linked, supported, and able to seek advice for their disorders; the hashtags allow this information to be found in a more accessible fashion. Encourages users to feel more connected, aiding them to fight their depressive disorder.
Trust is an important aspect in these communities on Instagram. Trust gives users the ability to seek and have confidence in the information shared in this third space. When users have belief and confidence in the space, they will often be more willing to engage and “freely exchange information and opinions, without worrying that shared knowledge and personal information could be misused or abused” (Lu et al., 2021). Lu refers to this as informational support and defines it as “the degree to which a user’s need for information and knowledge about depression is gratified through interaction with others” (Lu et al., 2021). This creates an environment where users are both comfortable to accept, and practice the information shared, as well as ask for advice. Instagram has enabled users to be aided in the psychological stress they are facing. Due to removing some of the negative associations with mental health disorders. (Lu et al., 2021). As shown above, Instagram has enabled users to access informational communities.
Instagram allows users to seek help online via a third space forum
To understand how Instagram encourages users to seek help it is important to understand what a third space is. A third space can be defined as a “gathering spots outside of work and home for groups of people to connect… create connection points for socializing in and with a niche community” (McArthur & White, 2016). An example of a third space is Instagram, as it gives users the ability to create connections with each other and join a niche community. In this case, the niche community is the mental health group, in specific the depressive disorders. Instagram gives users a place where they can share their stories and advice (Mackson et al., 2019). It creates a place in which users feel comfortable sharing information or personal anecdotes about their life. This space created gives users who would not usually seek help via the traditional means of in-person psychologists or talking to a trusted person a place to feel safe and connected (Nimrod 2012). As it is an online space where users do not have to take part in a face-to-face conversation, they can connect and create these online communities with each other which in turn allows them to seek guidance from other users as to how to combat their depressive disorder (Mackson et al., 2019). Users can connect and relate to each other which also improves their depressive symptoms, due to feeling a connection and sense of belonging in this Instagram community (Mackson et al., 2019).
Through users being able to seek help via Instagram as a third space; gives the opportunity as well for users who have managed to reduce their symptoms to share their stories (Gupta and Ariefdjohan 2020). This creates a cycle where users can have their feelings validated, as well as helping others understand they are not alone (Gupta and Ariefdjohan 2020). Seeking help from users who have already experienced, and undertaken therapy or other means of support can make it less daunting for the user (Gupta and Ariefdjohan 2020). This is all facilitated via the third space of Instagram and has helped to ensure that these communities of users have a space to connect. The empowerment that is gained from a user in sharing their story has been proven to have a positive impact on their recovery from depression (Lu et al. 2021). With so many adolescent females struggling with depression this outlet has played a hand in ensuring the recovery of these users. Depression and social anxiety are often two mental illnesses that are presented together (Gilbert 2000). When these illnesses present together it can be difficult for adolescents to be open to communicating to a trusted person about these disorders (Gilbert 2000). The safety and anonymity presented on Instagram, as well as the trusted community, can give users a sense of relief and trust in the system (Gupta and Ariefdjohan 2020). This is due to points made above, about being able to connect to identity as well as having an online outlet and a third space to be able to seek help. Overall, the third space of Instagram has created another more approachable outlet for adolescent girls to be able to seek help regarding their depression disorder.
It can be understood that through the utilisation of Instagram, users are better equipped to battle their depressive disorders. Social networks, such as Instagram have given a platform to create forums and groups dedicated to allowing female adolescent users to feel more connected. In turn, better-aiding users to fight against depression and feel more connected. As mentioned above, these communities create a space where users can feel connected through attaching their identity to these support groups, which in turn leads to lower levels of depression. These communities also create an opportunity for information to be widely shared and spread. This can be done through utilising hashtags or having accounts dedicated to the depression. Instagram is also well known for its ability to share personal anecdotes. This allows users to have their feelings validated as well as help other users understand that they are not facing this disorder alone. When users are able to connect their identity to a group and have shared experiences it causes a sense of belonging which further reduces depression levels. This third space creates an environment where users are able to seek support in a way, they feel comfortable. As it is not in the traditional means users can be more inclined to share and ask for support from other users. As shown above Instagram has enabled users to create their identity and in turn better fight against their depression through connecting with these Instagram communities.
Beyond Blue. 2021a. “Statistics.” Beyond Blue. Accessed 28 March, 2021. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/statistics.
Beyond Blue. 2021b. “Types of Depression.” Accessed 28 March, 2021. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/types-of-depression.
Gilbert, Paul. 2000. “The Relationship of Shame, Social Anxiety and Depression: The Role of the Evaluation of Social Rank.” Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy: An International Journal of Theory & Practice 7 (3): 174-189.
Gupta, Rohit, and Merlin Ariefdjohan. 2020. “Mental Illness on Instagram: A Mixed Method Study to Characterize Public Content, Sentiments, and Trends of Antidepressant Use.” Journal of Mental Health: 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1080/09638237.2020.1755021.
Hampton, Keith N., and Barry Wellman. 2018. “Lost and Saved . . . Again: The Moral Panic About the Loss of Community Takes Hold of Social Media.” Contemporary Sociology 47 (6): 643-651. https://doi.org/10.1177/0094306118805415.
Iqual, Mansoor. 2021. “Instagram Revenue and Usage Statistics (2021).” Business of Apps.2021. https://www.businessofapps.com/data/instagram-statistics/.
Jiang, Shaohai, and Annabel Ngien. 2020. “The Effects of Instagram Use, Social Comparison, and Self-Esteem on Social Anxiety: A Survey Study in Singapore.” Social Media + Society 6 (2): 2056305120912488. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305120912488.
Lu, Yingjie, Taotao Pan, Jingfang Liu, and Jun Wu. 2021. “Does Usage of Online Social Media Help Users with Depressed Symptoms Improve Their Mental Health? Empirical Evidence from an Online Depression Community.” Frontiers in public health 8: 581088-581088. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2020.581088.
Mackson, Samantha B, Paula M Brochu, and Barry A Schneider. 2019. “Instagram: Friend or Foe? The Application’s Association with Psychological Well-Being.” New Media & Society 21 (10): 2160-2182. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444819840021.
McCosker, Anthony, and Ysabel Gerrard. 2020. “Hashtagging Depression on Instagram: Towards a More Inclusive Mental Health Research Methodology.” New Media & Society 0 (0): 1461444820921349. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444820921349.
Moreau, Elise. 2018. “What Is Instagram, Anyway.” Here’s what Instagram is all about and how people are using it [online].
Nimrod, Galit. 2012. “From Knowledge to Hope: Online Depression Communities.” 11 (1): 23-30. https://doi.org/doi:10.1515/ijdhd.2012.009.
36 thoughts on “Instagram, depression and adolescents. An examination into how these correlate in a positive light.”
Hi Grace, thanks for taking the time to put together such a thoughtful atypical view of Instagram. You really demonstrated what it’s potential for contributing to positive mental health outcomes can be.
I also found your engagement with the comments section showed a genuine curiosity of other people’s point of view, and your eagerness to read and understand their opinions and experiences serve you very well.
Hi Grace, I enjoyed reading your paper, it is so well-structured and well-informed! I totally agree that the overall connectivity that Instagram has provided for its users allows the decline in depression, allowing one to express one-self, and seeking help from others, but do you believe that one’s vulnerability exposed and expressed online also have a further negative psychological impact to their mental well-being?
Yes, in one hand I do strongly agree that Instagram can be one of the tool for self-expression, but in the other hand, Instagram is not only filled with positive-minded users, so in that case I also believe that constant self-expression online and seeking for online help can have a dark side to it – one being tied with self-validation and will feel bad and negatively self-evaluate themselves once the validation from online users decline, or other people giving false advices for those that are vulnerable, especially those suffering a mental illness.
Thanks! Let me know 🙂
Also, I’d appreaciate if you”d take a look at my post on social media and mental health: https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/28/how-social-media-such-as-twitter-and-discord-can-help-individuals-with-mental-illness-and-build-communities-online/
Thanks for the interesting and thought-provoking paper, I enjoyed reading it. It was certainly refreshing to see Instagram being used an example of helping people cope with mental illnesses and find safe spaces.
In the interest of further discussion, I have a few points that I would love your response and comments on.
Most use of Instagram is focused on visual stories and posts, as the software and algorithm are designed in such a way as to promote this. It is often argued that individuals present a filtered and constructed version of self and identity on Instagram, and indeed other social media platforms, and I feel that these constructions of reality are often not wholly accurate or healthy. Do you think that reliance on posting your “best side” to increase engagement, and the associated FOMO or inadequacy that this elicits in followers, especially in lieu of the leader-follower dichotomy present on Instagram, are actually improving individuals overall mental state and psychology? I am sure that for some individuals this is the case, I do however believe that you have to actively imbed yourself within a specific community, and for this community to be cognizant of its empowerment potential for you to get the associated feelings of belonging and improvement in dealing with mental illnesses. Of the estimated 1 billion active Instagram users, I wonder how many are aware of the positive aspects that you discuss in your paper? While Instagram is no doubt full of likeminded individuals who form positive and forward-thinking communities, I find that this is a rather rose-tinted glasses view of the platform. It is equally as easy to argue that the platform offers an expansive example of multiple and conflicting viewpoints, beliefs and lived experiences.
As shown in your paper, much of the research focused on Instagram, and in particular its effects on depression and mental illness are concerned with a female audience. There was an article by Jade Gailberger in The Australian yesterday ( https://www.theaustralian.com.au/breaking-news/23bn-for-mental-health-and-suicide-prevention-in-federal-budget/news-story/a37eff664d55b7b83e32b78a5dc270ac) that highlighted “Despite men accounting for three in four suicides in Australia, they are in the minority when it comes to accessing support services.” Can the same positive benefits of Instagram on depressive disorders (of which suicide is associated) be said for male users, or indeed other non-binary individuals?
Lastly, do you have any specific examples of the “safe spaces” that you talk of on Instagram? I can think of the feminist discourse, activism and communities attached to influencers such as Clementine Ford and Abbie Chatfield, but I do often question whether this is a form of performative activism as a means for establishing clout and followers rather than genuine concern, empathy, opinion, and the intentional creation of a safe space. This may come off as a slightly pessimistic view, but I am genuinely interested in what you think.
I look forward to getting your response to my questions and would once again like to thank you on your excellent paper!
Thank you for your thoughts on my paper. I completely understand where you are coming from with your comment. However, before I begin I would like to acknowledge that I am aware that my paper paints Instagram in a positive light. I wanted to do this as it is isn’t the common perspective on the app and I believe it is important to acknowledge the good the app has done for many users.
Concerning your first question I do believe you are right in the respect that users will tend to post the best versions of themselves as well as show the positives of their life. However, this is not the only way to engage with Instagram to reap the benefits of lowering levels of depression. Users have the ability to comment on posts and share posts they believe have a strong message without illuding or sharing any personal details with their followers. Unlike Facebook which shares your comments and reactions with a users ‘friends’, Instagram doesn’t, so users still have a sense of anonymity from their followers when it comes to commenting on posts.
I believe unfortunately as I mentioned above users are quick to blame the applications for mental health disorders, versus seeing the positives in them. Although I do understand Instagram still has a very long way to go in ensuring it is a safe space for all users.
Thank you for sharing that article! It was a very interesting read, I do believe that Instagram will give users the same benefits no matter what gender a user may identify with. Instagram itself and its affordances do not prohibit different genders from utilising them. I personally believe the issue can often lie in awful and highly toxic stereotypes which can drive these high suicide rate figures. Although I have not completed much research into this area as I found looking into adolescent females personally more interesting due to identifying as a female myself! But this will definitely be something I will take the time to look into!
An influencer who has recently gone viral on TikTok and now Instagram is Jazz Thornton, a New Zealand lady who is known for her advocation for mental health and being a figure you can reach out to, she has her own charity and is a strong advocate for mental health. Although I do tend to agree with you that many of these influencers are doing it for clout. I have found jazz to be authentic and a user who is wanting to help others due to her lived experiences. I highly recommend checking her out!
Again thank you for taking the time to comment on my paper!
I have really enjoyed your paper and I really enjoyed how you have taken a different approach to Instagram. I am in the Fashion industry. Instagram and fashion can have a negative impact for users that engage in Instagram. especially in women. Women who follow the likes of Kim Kardashian and other celebrities are comparing themselves to them has created a negative impact on women.
However, recently there has been a change and thanks to Celeste Barber she has changed this and made people look at the reality of each image on Instagram. Reading your article made my look at a different perspective and how there has been a change to on society and offer more support. I like how you incorporated the trust and the usage of Instagram. However, I feel this is an issue that still needs much improvement. To gain a following, communities that use Instagram has to follow the rules and regulations and to attract more followers is becoming harder and one of those issues are how Instagram requires a minimum follower to use some of their affordances within the platform. I think this is unfair for a small business organisation who are helping others needs to pay for a following or they have pay to sponsor some ads. Do you think with the raise of people looking for support that Instagram will allow these organisations to get their message across more without sponsoring? Do you think that Covid has created more depression over the last year and do you think users will look to Instagram for more community support?
Thank you for your comment and for taking the time to read my paper.
I completely agree with you, as with many things there is always room for improvement. I am not 100% sure if this method of using Instagram as a support mechanism will impact whether this feature will become available to smaller creators and businesses. However, I believe they should as they will continue to encourage and help support these businesses and creators to grow.
As for your second question. I do believe unfortunately that covid has caused an increased level of depression (Van Rheenen et al., 2020). However, I also believe people will turn to Instagram as a community of support. This is due to the way people using social media changing. I believe pre-covid, was used in a much more passive way compared to now, which is it used to communicate and connect. Instagram has been an instigator to encourage these conversations and allow users to connect in a society in which connecting was not very much possible.
Van Rheenen, Tamsyn E, Denny Meyer, Erica Neill, Andrea Phillipou, Eric J Tan, Wei Lin Toh, and Susan L Rossell. 2020. “Mental Health Status of Individuals with a Mood-Disorder During the Covid-19 Pandemic in Australia: Initial Results from the Collate Project.” Journal of affective disorders 275: 69-77.
Really great piece you’ve written and I love the stance you’ve taken in support to Instagram use. I believe a huge part of our upbringing in the digital world has led to much of society believing platforms such as these LEAD to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Its absolutely a breath of fresh air to be given the positive aspects of it. I wonder if you know if there’s more evidence that supports this claim or goes against. I’m really interested to know what the statistics are behind this.
I also wanted to understand your take on this. I know a lot of people who come onto Instagram communities are at their most vulnerable stages, and sometimes even the slightest trigger or the wrongs words can lead someone to spiral down to an even more negative place. What do you think about the risks associated with giving advice to someone when you’re not medically trained? What do you also think about the risks of coming across individuals who give misleading identities for the sole purpose of hurting other people online?
Awesome work, really, look forward to having a bit of a discussion here.
– Michelle M
Thank you for your feedback, I think with anything you will be able to find evidence to support both of these points, whether social media is positive or not. For example, the comment below yours, written by Scout, has written a paper for an alternative perspective to mine so I would encourage you to read that if you wish to gain more perspective on this topic. In terms of evidence with my paper. I would encourage you to read the paper “Does Usage of Online Social Media Help Users With Depressed Symptoms Improve Their Mental Health? Empirical Evidence From an Online Depression Community” (Lu et al., 2021). There is much evidence within the paper that further enhances my point, however, I struggled to interpret the data so did not include much of it in my paper.
I think to start with your first question, it is always important to encourage people to seek medical help if needed but in this respect, it is similar to giving advice to a friend, the individual giving the advice may not be medically trained but sometimes the advice is wanted despite this. The risks will always be there but sometimes the benefits can outweigh the risks. Being an online world I personally believe the same principles apply. I would love to know your thoughts on this though!
The users who are purposely attacking other users, although may get some traction before this, but I have found will often get reported and blocked so users are not exposed to this type of content. Unfortunatley there is always these risks in the online communities which is why these communities will often be so strong and tight as they will protect each other from the hate.
Let me know your thoughts on this I look forward to hearing from you 🙂
Lu, Yingjie, Taotao Pan, Jingfang Liu, and Jun Wu. 2021. “Does Usage of Online Social Media Help Users with Depressed Symptoms Improve Their Mental Health? Empirical Evidence from an Online Depression Community.” Frontiers in public health 8: 581088-581088. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2020.581088.
I find this really interesting, as the topic you discuss is basically completely opposite to what I have discussed in my paper. It’s interesting to read your paper that sheds a light on the positives of social media with mental health disorders, as I have discussed how social media sites can facilitate these issues.
Have you considered how your point about 80.7% of those reporting mental health disorders are young Australian females (Beyond Blue 2021a), could be due to social media? And that social media could be the cause of body image/self-esteem issues, depression, and anxiety due to people comparing themselves to their peers? Perloff (2014) found that adolescents are more likely to compare themselves to their peers who they regard similar to them rather than models. Because of this social media-triggered comparison, these users are more likely to have body image issues.
Rather than creating a safe space online, do you think that Instagram, being driven by edited images, creates a space for people (especially young women) to feel unhappier or worse about their identity?
Thanks for sharing your paper, I enjoyed reading a different perspective on what I have written about! Here is my paper if you would like to have a read:
Beyond Blue. 2021a. “Statistics.” Beyond Blue. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/statistics
Perloff, R. (2014). Social Media Effects on Young Women’s Body Image Concerns: Theoretical Perspectives and an Agenda for Research. Sex Roles, 71(11-12), 363-377. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-014-0384-6
That’s so interesting that our papers have such alternative perspectives on the topic. I am looking forward to reading yours!
With your first point I am in some agreeance with you, part of the reason I chose to specifically write on depression rather than mental health disorders, generally is because I still believe the platform has some work to remove the comparison elements. When it comes to comparisons between users and your cited source I completely understand and agree with your point. However, I also think it is important to understand that these issues are also present in everyday life, in terms of children comparing toys, outfits, etc during their day to day life. Part of the reason I believe Instagram is doing this well is not just because of the affordances (hashtags) on the platform, mainly the users. Conversations, from my experience, have been positive and supportive regarding mental health and depression through it is less of a taboo topic. I encourage you to check out the link below of some accounts making these positive conversations.
Although editing apps are in use, I wanted this paper to focus less on the body image aspect of mental health disorders, although I acknowledge this is an element of it. This element is present within Instagram but has been destigmatised to a point as though some celebrities taking part in this, there are now conversations in place as to why this is not needed. I wanted to demonstrate that there are positives to using Instagram to form those communities and have these open conversations. I believe you have raised some valid points and I personally believe, like, with many things, there is both positives and negatives to the platform. I would love to know what you think about the points I have raised!
Thanks for your paper!
It was refreshing to see a social media platform (In this case, Instagram) be touted as helping mental illnesses, rather than being a cause.
You talk a lot about the positive benefits of social media and it’s ability to drive a sense of community and belonging, which I agree with. As you’ve said, those with depression or similar mental illnesses can use social media as a safe space where they feel like they can empathise and share in the struggle of those who may be going through similar issues.
While reading your paper though, I couldn’t help but think about the potential of this being inversed and potentially actually creating an environment which could lead to more people being depressed, or perhaps thinking that they are depressed.
This comes from the fact that a lot of people who claim to have depression, do not actually have depression (Mojtabai, 2013). One contributing factor to this could be that in today’s society, a lot of people think it’s ‘cool’ to be sad.
Now, if we take this notion and apply it to the points raised in your paper, could we assume that a lot of people who are not actually depressed are identifying themselves within the safe space communities of those who actually are? This could lead to a flurry of problems, the most pressing being that those who actually suffer from depression could feel like their illness is being belittled or played-down which could result in a amplification of their condition.
What do you think?
Mojtabai, R. (2013). Clinician-Identified Depression in Community Settings: Concordance with Structured-Interview Diagnoses. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 82(3), 161–169. https://doi.org/10.1159/000345968
Thank you for your feedback, you have raised a very interesting point and one I had not thought of until now. I understand your point and believe there is definitely some merit in it. Whether these young people believe they depression or have been diagnosed, I still believe they benefit from the communities created by Instagram as a third space.
I do agree with you that some individuals may be miss diagnosing themselves with depression due to reading about it in an online community. There has been an influx of users identifying themselves as having mental health disorders during this pandemic (Salari et al., 2020). As this pandemic has caused many people to not be able to physically connect the utilisation of Instagram as a way to build a community and connection still, I believe remains a strong idea. I would love to know your thoughts on this, how would you recommend the combat of mental health disorders, diagnosed and undiagnosed alike.
Salari, Nader, Amin Hosseinian-Far, Rostam Jalali, Aliakbar Vaisi-Raygani, Shna Rasoulpoor, Masoud Mohammadi, Shabnam Rasoulpoor, and Behnam Khaledi-Paveh. 2020. “Prevalence of Stress, Anxiety, Depression among the General Population During the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Globalization and Health 16 (1): 57. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12992-020-00589-w.
Thanks for your reply Grace!
I agree, Instagram, and other online social networking sites have provided a really good opportunity to fulfill people’s need for connection and a sense of community.
However I still believe that the communities people may end up connecting to could prove harmful (In this case, those communities centering around mental health issues, depression, etc.) I believe that the pandemic could even enhance the dangers of this, and the points I raised above. Those who have self-diagnosed with mental health disorders throughout the pandemic, could potentially be exacerbating their belief that they have such mental disorders by participating in communities of those who actually do suffer from such disorders.
As far as your question to combatting mental health disorders, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, I am afraid I can’t really speak to this as I do not have the expertise to offer such advice and believe that people who do offer such advice without such expertise can actually cause more harm than good.
I loved your idea for your paper!
I really feel the negatives of social media are always hyped up by the media, compared to the positives. So thank you for shedding light on the positives. I feel my paper discusses that too.
I would love to know do you feel Instagram is now less toxic and much warmer since banning like counts? Because I really feel it is, however, I would love to hear your perspective as someone who is well versed in mental health on Instagram.
Thank you so much, Connor 🙂
Read my paper it’s really good if I do say so myself
Thank you for your feedback. I personally feel that the removal of the like count has been positive in terms of making the platform less toxic. This has been proven by a study titled “Hiding Instagram Likes: Effects on negative affect and loneliness”(Wallace & Buil, 2021), which has stated that the removal of likes has had a positive effect on removing loneliness produced by Instagram.
I will definitely check out your paper now!
Wallace, Elaine, and Isabel Buil. 2021. “Hiding Instagram Likes: Effects on Negative effect and Loneliness.” Personality and Individual Differences 170: 110509. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.110509.
I really enjoyed reading your paper. It’s amazing to see how far Instagram has come from when it was first introduced. It’s also amazing to see what people do when they have access to platforms and a following and the influence that they can be on those followings.
I’ve read a lot of papers on the negative effects of social media and Instagram but what I find fascinating about yours is the perspective you’ve written the paper on! I agree that Instagram allows its users to feel more connected through the online community built which also gives them a support system and the ‘third place’ where they feel comfortable to speak up on issues like depression and mental health. I’ve always thought of Instagram as an entertainment platform which at times can be toxic to its users due to what ‘celebrities’ and ‘influencers’ put out, however, your paper puts into perspective how Instagram can be used to help battle depression and this is something I’ve not thought about so thank you for that.
Overall, this was a very thought-provoking and well-researched paper 🙂
Thank you for your points. I agree I think more often than not people will create a negative stance on how social media contributes to mental health issues. While I am sure this is true, I think it’s also important to consider the positives the platform can have. There is always two sides to the story once researched well!
This seems to contradict most studies that say Instagram etc. contribute to heightened levels of anxiety and depression due to a number of factors – individuals presenting only their idealised life experiences, using image manipulation to look better (and thus feel better about themselves), a over-emphasis on material happiness (food, clothes, makeup, travel). A few of these studies are linked below. You talk about positive communities – how prevalent do you think these ‘positive communities’ are?
Do you think the help-seeking behaviours of adolescents, in particular, are strong enough to outweigh these negative pressures from social media?
No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression
#StatusOfMind: Social media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing
Association of Screen Time and Depression in Adolescence (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2737909)
Thank you for your feedback, you have raised some interesting points. In terms of how prevalent these online communities are, I believe they are fairly common through influencers endorsing or promoting raw conversations with their followers. I believe that users will utilise both the comments section on an influencers post or the private message feature to connect and create communities with each other. However, I do agree that materialism and presenting an idealistic view of a users life is prevalent on Instagram.
I do believe the positives outweigh the negatives of social media for adolescents. This is due to the way they might feel dissociated and lonely is they are barred from having social media, in a society, it is common to use and be a part of, it can be an important aspect of their life to participate in these conversations. Therefore I believe it can be just as harmful to force adolescents to not have social media as it is to have it, as they are able to form these online communities.
I would love to know what you think about this!
This was a really interesting argument. As you mentioned, SNS’s like Instagram can contribute to depression through disconnectedness and isolation outside of the digital platform (in the real world). I think SNS’s like instagram – which are so heavily visual, can also encourage anxiety through comparison and way that many accounts are “highlight reels” of peoples lives.
That aspect aside I do think the site helps people with depression, or all kinds of other health disorders, to find people who are like them and find support. Becoming a mum really opened my eyes to this function of Instagram and I found so many raw, and honest accounts of motherhood it really made me realise that everyone goes through difficult times. I also made a lot of friendships that carried through into the offline world through Instagram which is another aspect of support and belonging.
Great job 🙂
Thank you for your feedback regarding my paper. I completely agree with you in terms of the comparison but I think it’s in a way a double-edged sword. Users are able to gain as much out of it as they can lose from it. And depending on what a user will buy into will be whether they gain or lose more out of it. I personally believe users are more likely to lean into the positives, eg the communities, as they make them feel more positive.
But yes I completely agree I have found Instagram a function to build my own supportive community as well!
I would love to know what you thought on this and whether you agree or not!
What an interesting take on Social Media and Depression. Often Social Media platforms such as Instagram can be shown in such a horrible spotlight, suggesting body image issues and lower self-esteem. Unfortunately, these issues can still be there but this paper proves there are positives in these platforms. Awesome work, I loved the read!
Thanks, Yana!! I completely agree with you, but I am glad people are able to find communities online to assist with their mental health issues.
I found this paper to be very insightful and challenge my previously held notions that Instagram served to impact individual’s mental health in a negative way. Your writing style and perspective of the topic and how the social media platform fosters a sense of belongingness and support is very interesting. Great work!
Thanks for your feedback Liv!!
Such an interesting perspective grace – a truly fascinating paper that challenges the traditional notion that social media is a negative accessory for those who struggle with mental health. Loved it!!
Thanks for the feedback Ellen, I highly recommend researching it!
This is a very interesting and thought provoking subject, that personally I hadn’t given much thought about until this paper.
Thanks for the insight!
Thanks for the feedback!
I hope you are doing fine. First of all, thank you for this very informative paper, I really enjoyed reading it.
Instagram has evolved, it is no longer just a photo sharing platform but it has created a whole new form of communication. It is true that Instagram brings a sense of belonging and provides one with a feeling of acceptance by some communities. However, Do you think that instagram has actually make people aware of mental health issues?
You mentioned that instagram provides an opportunity for users to judge each other, besides common users do you think some instagram
influencers can also be responsible for this? and why?
Another point you mentioned was third space and this was very informative!!!
Here are some examples of mental health instagram accounts which you can check out:
Thank you for your comment and feedback on my paper.
I do think Instagram has encouraged a conversation that allows users to be more aware of mental health issues. However, I do believe this is a positive thing as the conversation is now less taboo and more well known between users which further encourages the community presented on Instagram.
I think although some influencers might judge each other, I believe most will encourage their followers to be accepting of others. This is due to the size of their platform, if they were to judge people they would be encouraging their followers to do the same which is obviously not a good thing. What is your opinion on this?
I really appreciate your comments and feedback so thank you!
Hello Grace, I hope you are doing fine!
I do agree with you that an influencer will encourage positivity among their followers, for example Selena Gomez recently launched Mental Health 101 educational campaign with her beauty brand Rare Beauty. I believe it is a great way to advocate for mental health issues and I think that other influencers should create campaigns addressing these issues (though it is a small campaign, it will help some and this will create a difference)
If you are interested about identity and online advocacy, check out my paper: Instagram used as a tool by influencers to perform an “authentic” persona among users.
Here is the link:
Take care and have a good weekend!
Hey Grace, reading your paper has really put into perspective how far Instagram has come since it’s launch. Although the fundamentals of the social network have remained the same – sharing photos – it has become a place where people are free to educate people, connect with their friends, follow their inspirations and get to know others who enjoy similar interests. Thanks for such a positive look into Instagram!
Thanks for the feedback Niamh! It is an interesting topic.
Hi Grace – I enjoyed reading your paper! Instagram is one of my most used social media platforms for art and photography and I hadn’t thought of it as a place for people suffering from depression to form a community. What a great resource for people to have to be able to come together and connect with other people on their own terms of identity, to be actively involved in conversations or simply “lurk” and still be able to receive the benefits and insights of the community. Thanks for sharing!
Yes I completely agree! I definitly think this platform has evolved enormously and created a great space for users to seek help. Thank you for your feedback on my paper!