Instagram’s adding some new in-app ‘nudges’ to help minimize harmful impacts on younger users, in response to concerns around overuse, and the mental health impacts of comparison in the app.
The new nudges will come in two forms, with the main one being an entirely new notification designed to re-direct users away from potentially harmful topics.
As explained by Instagram:
“Teens in certain countries will see a notification that encourages them to switch to a different topic if they’re repeatedly looking at the same type of content on Explore. This nudge is designed to encourage teens to discover something new and excludes certain topics that may be associated with appearance comparison.”
Appearance comparison is a significant concern. Last year, as part of its ‘Facebook Files’ series, which examined a collection of internal documents leaked from inside Meta, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company’s own research had shown that Instagram was especially harmful for teen girls, leading to increased suicidal thoughts.
As per the WSJ report:
“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.”
This new notification is another way to combat this element, though how effective it will be depends on how many people are searching for specific topics, as opposed to following certain users or accounts. Based on Instagram’s description, these nudges will only be shown in response to search activity on specific topics, which does seem to limit their potential to some degree.
Either way, Instagram says they’ll have an impact:
“We designed this new feature because research suggests that nudges can be effective for helping people – especially teens – be more mindful of how they’re using social media in the moment. In an external study on the effects of nudges on social media use, 58.2% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that nudges made their social media experience better by helping them become more mindful of their time on-platform. Our own research shows they’re working too: during a one-week testing period, one in five teens who saw our new nudges switched to a different topic.”
I mean, further data is required here for any real context. How many users were in the test pool? How many people are searching for harmful topics, as opposed to simply comparing themselves to others in their main feed? How often were these nudges being shown, on average?
There’s not really enough to go on to understand the true potential here, but hopefully, Instagram will eventually share more insight.
In addition to this, Instagram’s also launching updated ‘Take a Break’ reminders which will feature well-known app creators, which could improve resonance.
Instagram first launched its Take a Break prompts late last year, with this new program leaning on established stars to maximize take-up.
“We’re empowering US-based young creators, through funding and education, to share more content on Instagram that inspires teens and supports their well-being. A Steering Committee of experts in child psychology and digital literacy will provide guidance on evidence-based ways for creators in the program to use language that strengthens emotional well-being and self image, how to create responsible content online and how creators can look after themselves and their communities on and offline.”
Utilizing popular creators could be the most effective way to increase awareness on this front, and get young users to take a step back from the online environment, rather than being dragged down into the worst of it.
Both are worthy experiments from Instagram, either way, and while I have doubts on the true reach and value of the topical nudges, anything that can be done to improve the wellbeing of youngsters should be implemented in the app.
On another front, Instagram’s also adding new parental control options to help parents manage their child’s app usage.
Expanding on its existing parental controls, parents and guardians will now also be able to send invites to teens to initiate these supervision tools, set specific times to limit teens’ use of IG, and see teen reports on an account and/or post.
I can’t really see many teens being overly keen to let their parents in, and I can imagine that it’ll set up a lot of conflicts as a result – but either way, it enables a more collaborative, trust-centered approach to app supervision and management.
Social media offers great potential value for connection and community, enabling people to share their lives and experiences with each other, which can have huge positive benefits, in a range of ways.
But there are significant harms too. And while Meta itself has sought to play down those impacts in the past, it’s good to see that it is continuing to take action on this front.
The new nudge notifications are being tested with users in the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with more regions to follow in the coming months.
YouTube Tests Disappearing Community Posts, Expands Access to Membership Gifting
YouTube is testing out a new post type within its Community Posts element, while it’s also expanding access to ‘Membership Gifting’, which provides another way for creators to boost their audience in the app.
First off, on disappearing posts – YouTube’s running a new experiment that will enable selected creators to set a time limit on their Community Posts in the app, which will see those updates disappear after 24 or 72 hours.
As you can see in this example, the new option will enable you to set an expiration date for a Community Post, which will then see it automatically erased from view after that time.
YouTube says that creators have been seeking more ways to enhance engagement within the Community Posts element:
“We’ve heard from creators that they would like the ability to share content that is only available for a short period of time – for example, a special time-limited discount on merch or a special message for fans that manage to catch it before it expires.”
YouTube’s Community Posts, which it opened up to all channels with over 500 subscribers in September last year (down from 1,000 subs previously), enable creators to share text-based posts – which can include polls, GIFs, images, and video – within their Community tab.
That provides another way to extend your community-building efforts beyond video content and subsequent comments, which is more aligned with the engagement that you’ll find on in other social apps.
And soon, you’ll also be able to share disappearing posts too – though the initial test is only running with selected creators on Android devices to begin with.
“Viewers will be able to see that a post will expire in x hours at the top of the post in the community tab, and creators will see their expired posts in the ‘Community’ tab under the ‘Archived’ chip once it has expired. Creators can’t re-share expired posts, but we are planning on adding that functionality in the future.”
On another front, YouTube’s also expanding access to its ‘Membership Gifting’ option, which enables Channel members to purchase gift memberships, which are then distributed to other viewers who are not subscribed to the channel.
Which may seem a little odd, but the idea is that this is a support measure for creators, not a gift for friends, as such, providing a means to both give the creator revenue (as they get the usual cut from gifted memberships), while also helping them to boost their audience in the app.
“Up until now, gifting memberships was in a limited beta stage only, and only accessible by a small number of creators. But with this launch, we’re expanding the number of creators that have access to gifting memberships. And as a creator, you can buy gift memberships for your community without becoming a member yourself.”
To be eligible for the program, Channels need to have memberships enabled at a level of $4.99. Viewers also need to opt in to receive gifts during a stream, which they can do by tapping on the ‘Allow Gifts’ prompt in the chat on an eligible broadcast.
It could be a handy option for building community in the app, and with many YouTubers inspiring legions of passionate fans, you can imagine that some will be more than happy to participate in helping to grow their favorite creators’ following.
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