By Angie Burkhart |Staff Writer|
Hashtags have become a recognizable symbol, yet have given rise to some dangerous trends.
I will point out that I fully support freedom of expression, but I believe there comes a point when we need to draw the line on explicit material that is shared on social media outlets.
A popular Instagram trend has surfaced in which users post graphic photos of self-mutilation, ranging from cutting and burning themselves to severe anorexia and bulimia, and tag phrases such as #selfharm and #selfhate.
“I don’t think at the moment we fully understand the role social media plays in the rise of self-harm among young people” stated Caroline Kolek, spokesperson for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, in an article titled, “School’s Struggling to Cope with Student’s Self-Harming.”
I believe these images become dangerous as they become exposed to the younger users who are accessing this material, and how it may suggest that self-harm is cool or trendy.
“Recent research suggests one-third to half of adolescents in the United States have tried some form of non-suicidal self injury,” stated author Kirsten Fawcett in her U.S. News article “Myths and Facts About Self-Injury.”
In my opinion, these statistics should be enough motivation to better regulate the sharing of this content among users.
Facebook has taken initiative in banning certain self-harm content, seen in their terms and conditions, which states they remove any promotion or encouragement of self mutilation, eating disorders or hard drug use.
It seems to me that Instagram has fallen behind in regulating this type of content, as the materials are still easily available to their users via hashtags.
“If they ban nudity, they should definitely ban photos like these,” stated CSUSB student Desiree Contreras in an e-mail.
Instagram policies state that you may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content via the service.
Though the rules are very clear, I would argue that they are not regulated nearly as much as they should be.
For example, the tag #selfharmmm generates over two million images on Instagram, many of which are graphic and seem to overstep their rules about violent and hateful material.
This particular hashtag in which the spelling has been modified is just one example of the methods individuals have used to avoid having their content removed by administrators.
When parents permit their children to use social media platforms, it seems that they would assume that the policies stated in the terms and conditions would be upheld and unfortunately, that’s not the case.
If people remain passive about content that encourages or promotes self-harm, the issue will only progress and we may end up carrying some of the accountability.
If you happen to come across Instagram content which promotes self-harm, please report these images so that we may help even a single person from inflicting self-harm.
By reporting dangerous content we can prevent harmful trends from becoming popular.