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Study ranks social networks for their impact on youths’ mental health

(SOCIAL MEDIA) A recent study shows the impacts that various social mediums play on adolescents and kids mental health. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of negatives.

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Social media expectations

It’s no secret that social media puts a lot of pressure on everyone who uses it – be beautiful, be exciting, be perfect.

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And a new report by the UK-based Royal Society for Public Health found that of all the social media apps out there, Instagram does the most damage to young people’s mental health.

Status of Mind

The study, dubbed #StatusofMind, surveyed a group of nearly 1,500 people between the ages of 14 and 24, aiming to shed some light on how popular social platforms affect things like anxiety, depression, body image, and self-identity.

Major platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter all turned out to have an overall negative effect on mental health in that demographic, but Instagram was the worst – especially for young women.

The uber-visual app encourages women to “compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and Photoshopped versions of reality,” according to report author Matt Keracher.

An anonymous female survey respondent drove the point home: “”Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect.’”

The dilemma

The word ‘unattainable’ is thrown around a lot – as in, the standards on Instagram are unattainable. But it doesn’t feel like it when you see plenty of users apparently achieving that ‘unattainable’ perfection. When you’ve been scrolling through enviable pics for a while, it’s easy to forget how curated and filtered they are.

Instead, it starts to feel like both a personal connection to someone’s life, and an alienating, impossible standard.

To combat this creeping acceptance of Instagram as reality, the Royal Society for Public Health calls for warnings or labels on all posts, across platforms, that have been manipulated digitally, whether it’s Photoshop or a simple filter.

“We’re not asking these platforms to ban Photoshop or filters but rather to let people know when images have been altered so that users don’t take the images on face value as real,” said Keracher. With a reminder on most every post, though, no matter what the label says or looks like, it could soon start to blend into the background.

The report also suggested that pop-up warnings should appear when users have been on a platform for more than two hours.

Respondents who spend more than two hours a day on social media sites were more likely to report poor mental health.

“Platforms that are supposed to help young people connect with each other may actually be fueling a mental health crisis,” said Shirley Cramer, Royal Society Chief Executive, in the report.

Making strides

While 70 percent of the surveyed young people are in favor of the usage warning, it probably isn’t so simple. Social media is addictive, just like cigarettes and alcohol. Your brain craves the validation of likes, the feeling of being included. A pop-up could easily be ignored, ineffective.

There may not be a perfect answer yet, but the intentions of the study are good.

“We really want to equip young people with the tools and the knowledge to be able to navigate social media platforms not only in a positive way but in a way that promotes good mental health,” added Keracher.

here to stay

One thing is certain: social media isn’t going anywhere. Though there are demonstrated negative affects on mental health, there are also plenty of benefits of using social media – many use the apps as outlets for self-expression, and for forging connections with new people.

Professional YouTuber (what a job!) Laci Green is a strong proponent of mental health education.

“Because platforms like Instagram and Facebook present highly curated versions of the people we know and the world around us. It is easy for our perspective of reality to become distorted,” said Green. “Socializing from behind a screen can also be uniquely isolating, obscuring mental health challenges even more than usual.”

Notably, YouTube was the only platform in the study that was found to positively impact young people’s mental health. It’s harder to filter and curate a whole video than a split second snapshot.

Equip kids, don’t just shelter them

Ultimately, education is a promising route towards promoting good mental health, says the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists president, Sir Simon Wessely. “I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives,” said Wessely.

“We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media — good and bad — to prepare them for an increasingly digitized world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.”

#socialmedia

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Social Media

Tiktok: Did they really just censor disabled users?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) TikTok was concerned about disabled users being bullied so in a stunning reversal, they limited those users visibility on the app. Yikes.

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TikTok, the popular social media platform where users upload short, often silly or light-hearted, videos is coming under fire this week. Internal moderation documents acquired by the German digital rights blog, Netzpolitik.org, show that TikTok has been discriminating against users who are disabled, queer, and fat.

According to these documents, TikTok instructed moderators to tag any content created by so-called, “special users.” The “special users” tag refers to users who are “susceptible to harassment or cyberbullying based on their physical or mental condition.”

The idea behind the tag was to provide these “special users” with protection from cyber bullying and online harassment. This was achieved by limiting the visibility of these user’s content. Videos with this tag had their viewership limited to the user’s country of origin and were prevented from being featured on the “for you” section of the app.

To make matters even worse, moderators only had about 30 seconds to make the decision to flag a video or not. Imagine looking at a complete stranger for less than a minute and having to decide if they fall somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Now, imagine doing that with only a 15 second video for reference.

Sources inside TikTok say that moderators complained about this policy multiple times, but their concerns were ignored. According to a TikTok spokesperson, the tag system was meant to be a temporary solution.

“This was never designed to be a long-term solution, but rather a way to help manage a troubling trend until our teams and user-facing controls could keep up.”

Point blank, TikTok discriminated against users based on their physical appearance and perceived disabilities. They denied these users a fair opportunity on their app by limiting the visibility of their content therefor preventing them from growing their audiences.

In their statement about the moderation policy, TikTok’s spokesperson asserts that the policy is no longer in effect.

“While the intention was good, the approach was wrong and we have long since changed the earlier policy in favor of more nuanced anti-bullying policies and in-app protections.”

Owning up to their mistake is a good start, but a simple ‘our bad y’all’ is not good enough. When a company currently estimated to be worth 75 billion dollars admits to blatant discrimination against its users, there need to be some reparations.

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Facebook is finally allowing you to use your data freely, kinda

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is taking baby steps to improve data portability with new photo transfer tool. They are working with google, twitter, and microsoft to make it work

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Facebook is rolling out a new feature which will allow users to transfer their photos directly to Google Photos. The product is rolling out in Ireland first for some beta testing, but set to launch globally in the first half of 2020. At first glance this may seem like a mundane new tool, but it is just one thread in a complex web of legal and social change related to users’ right to their own data.

The true heart of this story is the ongoing issue of data portability. Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft are all part of the Data Transfer Project which aims to create data portability. Data portability refers to an individual users’ right to control their own data on the web, which includes the right to download and transfer their data to different services. The hope is that a seamless flow of data will create a more authentic sense of competition.

In their statement about the new product, Facebook reiterates this belief by stating, “we believe that if you share data with one service, you should be able to move it to another. That’s the principle of data portability, which gives people control and choice while also encouraging innovation.”

Being able to seamlessly transfer your photos from Facebook to any outside platform is a big step for a company that has spent most of the year in anti-trust investigations.

The photo transfer tool will be helpful to some users, but is it a genuine step towards breaking up the Facebook data monopoly? After all, Google has also gone through anti-trust investigations this year, so perhaps more open competition between two of the largest software companies on the globe is not exactly what legislators had in mind.

It’s nearly impossible to read whether Facebook’s attempts to improve global data portability are sincere or just an elaborate effort to keep governments off their bottom line. There is an argument to made about whether or not corporations can ever be sincere, but that is a story for a different day.

The best thing everyday users can do to protect their data right now is to stay informed and keep asking questions.

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‘Secret sister’ gift exchanges are not just lame, they’re ILLEGAL – tell your friends

(SOCIAL MEDIA) There’s a new gift giving program spread on Facebook but you may be giving more than gifts. Secret Sister is actually an illegal MLM that gives away your identity.

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‘Tis the season for Christmas themed pyramid schemes! No, we’re not talking about your favorite MLM adding some holiday flair (though that’s probably happening too), this is something more sinister: Secret Sister gift exchanges.

Not to be confused with Secret Santa (the anonymous gift exchange among friends), Secret Sister exchanges promises the impossible: buy one gift for a stranger, get upwards of 36 gifts in return. It might sound like a Christmas miracle, but it’s actually classified as a pyramid scheme… and gambling, to boot.

Not to mention, it’s definitely illegal, hun.

Circulated primarily on Facebook and targeted mostly at women, Secret Sister exchanges have been running since 2015, according to Snopes. Users are invited to join and invite up to six friends to participate too. Like all pyramid schemes, the further down the ladder you are, the less likely you are to receive many (if any!) gifts in return.

That’s the best case scenario.

Not only are you bothering your friends and potentially gaining nothing (or little) in return, you’re also at risk of identity theft when you participate in a secret sister exchange. Why? Well, most of these schemes involve users submitting important personal information such as phone number and home address, which aren’t the sorts of things you want falling into the hands of total strangers.

These “Secret Sister” gift exchanges might also go by other fun, festive names. For instance, one scam focused on “wine drinkers” and encouraged participants to purchase bottles of wine. But a pyramid scheme by any other name is still a massive waste of time and money.

A good rule of thumb? If something is offering amazing results for a fraction of the cost (like 36 gifts for the price of one), be wary. That’s the same promise you’ll get at a slot machine – and that’s less likely to steal your identity after you’ve lost money.

Not to sound like a PSA, but if you or anyone you know seems to be caught up in a secret sister gift exchange, get out! It shouldn’t be the season of law-breaking and identity theft. And if that $10 is burning a hole in your pocket, there’s plenty of ways to find some holiday cheer. Donate to a local charity, buy a gift for a coworker, maybe even treat yourself!

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