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Following the outrage over the suicide of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old in the UK, Instagram has banned graphic self-harm images on the platform. After Russell passed away, her parents found disturbing ‘graphic’ images about suicide and depression on her Instagram account, report The Guardian. This was the final straw for peers and concerned social media users, who have been warning about the effects of access to such content. Ever since its birth, this social media platform has raised alarm bells across the globe for lack of censorship and how it made access to certain material easy, even to young users. Time and again people have appealed to the platform to ban self-harm images. Sadly, it took the death of a youngster for the social media to wake up.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • Following outrage over the suicide of a British teen, Instagram has banned ‘graphic’ self-harm images. 
  • While the ban is much welcome, it is sad that it comes after a girl chose to end her life.
  • Social networking websites have accountability towards well being of their users. 
  • Whether they like it or not, they must take measures to tackle posts which promote suicide, self harm, bullying, etc.

The ban is welcome, as it was long overdue, but it is sad that it comes only after a young girl ended her own life prematurely.

The rising epidemic of mental health problems among adults and children alike, is an alarm bell we cannot ignore anymore. And since social media forms such an inseparable part of our lives these days, equal responsibility falls on social networking platforms too, whether they like it or not. Many users also express an aversion to such ban, citing that censorship curtails their right to freedom of expression. True, but now is not the time to be so self centred. Social media users who advocate sharing of material which glamourises or triggers bullying, self harm, depression, etc. need to understand what is at stake here.

Disconnect, despite being so well-connected virtually plays a key role in suicidal tendencies among youngsters.

Yes, censorship of graphic images on suicide won’t tackle the problem on the whole. There is a requirement for a much wholesome approach from not just platforms like Instagram, but us as a society in general. The focus needs to be not just on implementing bans, but creating awareness. Parents, schools and government authorities must take counselling more seriously. In fact, even peers need to be trained in identifying troubled kids. As parents we need to ask ourselves, how do suicidal tendencies escape our attention? Why are youngsters finding it difficult to connect with parents and even each other, and speak about their troubles?

Disconnect, despite being so well-connected virtually plays a key role in suicidal tendencies among youngsters. It is this disconnect we need to address. But it is not as if banning content which promotes self harm is entirely ineffective. It will lead to damage control and block access to distressing content. The pattern of suggesting similar posts, which opens a trove of depressing content to adults and teens, will break. Thereby, the ban will serve as the invisible hand which pulls vulnerable teens out of a dark and distressed world of bleak quotes and gory pictures. But that is not enough, as far as the commitment from social networking websites is concerned.

It is only when users and designers of social networking sites work together that we have a better chance of managing this epidemic.

They need to set algorithms which will alert authorities or helplines whenever there is any potentially threatening activity. We as social media users can play an important role too. If you come across any person who talks or shares content about suicide or depression, reach out. Warn their peers, or approach them one on one. It is only when users and designers of social networking sites work together that we have a better chance of managing this epidemic.

Picture Credit : The Hans India

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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