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Instagram is no longer just a place for flawless selfies and clever captions. It’s going to be a space for kindness.
The wildly popular social media app’s CEO Kevin Systrom announced this week that Instagram is determined to filter out hateful comments and promote positive ones. This is a new initiative for the company and we are so on board.
Tired of toxic comments and bullying trolls and eager to make Instagram a place people can feel totally comfortable expression themselves — Instagram is working towards eliminating negative comments with a recent feature that uses artificial intelligence to determine the nature of the comment.
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Instagram’s plan could not possibly come at a better time. Suicide rates among teen girls are at an all time high, and the last thing they need is a platform that supports bullying. Cyberbullying, which is twice as likely to affect girls than boys, is too often a reason cited for these teen suicides.
Cyberbullying, particularly with girls, is often at the hand of people they know, like their former dating partners or friends. In the case of friends, sociologist Diane Femlee, who is a professor at Pennsylvania State University, explains many times bullying stems from competition for status — like in sports, class or within friend groups — or esteem. Former dating partners, Femlee says, can become aggressive on social media if there are hurt feelings or resentment. And sometimes, former dating partners seek to embarrass their ex to keep them from being appealing to others. In no case would cyberbullying ever be easy to deal with, but it is so much worse for girls, who are being harassed by people they may have thought they were close with.
Tired of the cyberbullying they’ve experienced on social media, a number of celebrities have spoken out about rules and features on these platforms that previously hadn’t done anything to squash bullies. Miley Cyrus has spoken out about how hateful the comments on Instagram can be and that she went as far as speaking to the “head tip top” of the company about a need for comments to be disabled, otherwise she was going to cancel her account. Fortunately, they did add the option of not allowing comments, and she recommended that as her younger sister, Noah, became more well-known, that she enable that on all her photos so she wouldn’t have to see all the negativity. Maybe the Cyrus sisters will allow commenting again if they know hateful ones will be removed.
Additionally, both Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber temporarily quit social media after they were harshly attacked by fans. Sheeran shut down Twitter after fans harassed and insulted him about his recent “Game of Thrones” cameo, and Bieber took a break from Instagram last summer after some Beliebers attacked his then-girlfriend Sofia Richie.
So now that Instagram is refusing to allow itself to be a platform where bullying is allowed, we can only hope that other social media platforms will take a page from Instagram’s book and help make the world a more positive, peaceful place.