Instagram Is Releasing A New Anti-Bullying Feature–But Will It Help?

July 09, 2019

Even though I consider myself to be fairly lucky in terms of how far bullying went, it still happened. And a few big instances made me terrified to go back to school and face my bullies all over again. Cyberbullying is a completely different demon, as there’s no safe space to hide from the comments. I’ve had access to the internet since the 5th grade. But back then, not everyone knew what it was capable of.

As the years progressed and social networking became possible, people realized that the internet is one of the best avenues for bullying and trolling. Some trolls hide behind anonymous usernames or dummy accounts. Other people don’t even hide behind a mysterious screen name to harass others. Even worse, everyone can see if you’re being bullied, which is horrifying on a completely different level.

This is especially true of Instagram bullying. As a visual medium, it is easy to make a snap judgement on someone, be it for their clothing (or lack thereof) or their body’s shape. Influencers and regular folks alike have quit the platform after some harsh instances of Instagram bullying. Fortunately, the social media app announced that they’re taking steps to help remedy the problem. But, based on what we know, it’s hard to figure out whether or not their new plan will help prevent Instagram bullying.

According to HypeBeast, Instagram has announced its two-part plan to eliminate bullying on their platform. The first is actually already in effect. They’ve created the software to try and detect whether or not a comment is meant to be offensive.

“In the last few days, we started rolling out a new feature powered by AI that notifies people when their comment may be considered offensive before it’s posted,” Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, said in a blog post. “From early tests of this feature, we have found that it encourages some people to undo their comment and share something less hurtful once they have had a chance to reflect.”

That may help bullies stop and think before posting. But for someone who made an account just for bullying and being mean, they may shrug off this development.

The second part has yet to take effect, but it gives users a little more control. If a user finds a comment to be offensive, they can make sure it isn’t visible to the rest of their followers.

“Soon, we will begin testing a new way to protect your account from unwanted interactions called Restrict,” Mosseri wrote. “Once you Restrict someone, comments on your posts from that person will only be visible to that person. You can choose to make a restricted person’s comments visible to others by approving their comments.”

Sure, some of the embarrassment will be saved. But, it doesn’t erase the fact that the Instagram bullying happened.

Users are also able to delete comments, but it’d be pretty obvious to the bully that it went missing.

That may, in turn, create additional issues down the road.

Instagram bullying is serious for plenty of reasons, and we all have plenty of stressors as it is. Having someone try to reiterate that we’re not good enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough can make anyone hit their breaking point.

The Megan Meier Foundation released some appalling stats in regards to how many students are bullied per year. As of June 2019, roughly 34% of students reported that they were cyberbullied in some form.

Those experiences made 60% of them unable to properly focus on schoolwork or their home life. They also reported feeling unsafe, which is heartbreaking.

The students who were bullied were also more vulnerable for self-harm and suicide. Words can deeply hurt and make someone feel like life won’t ever get better.

That’s why it’s important for big companies like Instagram to step up and set a reminder that bullying can be dangerous. But, there’s still more they can do.

Instead of shielding followers from the negative comment, maybe they can ban the bully from using their platform. By tracking an IP address, that process may be possible. Still, it is a massive platform with over 500 million daily active users, so it is a nearly impossible task to monitor every single like, comment, and photo.

It’s a lot of work for the Instagram team, but it’s the perfect way to avoid a bully making a secondary account–which will happen if the bully is a tenacious one.

Regardless, it’s great that Instagram is trying hard to solve such an important issue. Bullying may never officially go away, but at least they’re going to make it slightly harder for people.

And if you yourself are an online bully, maybe you should take a minute to figure out why you’re trying to hurt people’s feelings online.

It may be a joke to you, but it can cause real damage. If your Instagram account is more about putting people down than lifting them up, you should stop and think about whether or not you’d be comfortable with the guilt if you end up taking things too far.

If you’ve been the victim of online bullying, be it on Instagram or another social media platform, you have some options.

Obviously, you can report the account that is harassing you, but that can sometimes escalate an issue. If you can, report and block the user, and keep your eyes peeled for any fake-looking accounts that start following you after you have blocked them. If someone threatens physical harm, you can go to the police.

If you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, know that you are not alone. You can call the Suicide Hotline at 1-(800)-273-8255 for guidance.