It’s no secret that Instagram has a huge problem with harassment and bullying on its platform. A recent example: reports that her Instagram failed to address 90% of the more than 8,700 abusive messages she received from several high-profile women, including actress Amber Heard.
To make the app a friendlier place, Instagram is rolling out a feature that reminds people to be respectful in two different scenarios. If you have more than 10,000 followers or set up a “creator” account), or reply to an offensive comment thread, Instagram will display a message at the bottom of your screen asking you to show respect.
These gentle reminders are part of a broader strategy called “nudging,” aimed at positively impacting people’s online behavior by encouraging rather than forcing them to change their behavior. It’s an idea rooted in behavioral science theory and one that Instagram and other social media companies have adopted in recent years.
The problem of harassment and bullying on Instagram cannot be solved with nudges alone, but Instagram research shows that this kind of subtle intervention can curb some users’ most cruel social media instincts. I’m here. Last year, Instagram’s parent company Meta said about 50% of people edited or deleted offensive comments after it began warning users before posting offensive comments. Instagram tells her Recode that similar warnings have proven effective in private his messages. For example, in an internal survey of 70,000 users whose results were shared for the first time on Recode, 30% of users said how many messages they would send to a creator with a large following after seeing a helpful reminder. decreased.
The tweak is likely that other social media apps with their own bullying and harassment issues, such as Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok, are also using this tactic to encourage more positive social interaction. showing gender.
Francesco Fogg, product designer for Instagram’s wellbeing team, said: The time people spend on apps is supportive and meaningful.
Instagram first rolled out nudges in 2019 to try and influence people’s commenting behavior. This reminder asked users to reconsider posting comments that fall into the gray zone for the first time. It’s been removed, but it’s still getting closer to that line. (Instagram uses machine learning models to flag potentially offensive content.)
The first offensive comment warning was subtle in wording and design, asking the user, “Are you sure you want to post this?” Over time, Instagram has made nudges more obvious, asking you to click a button to ignore warnings and continue with potentially offensive comments, and comments may violate Instagram’s Community Guidelines. The case was more clearly warned, he says, Fogu. When the warning was more direct, Instagram said it resulted in 50% of people editing or deleting their comments.
According to Instagram, the effects of nudging can also be long-lasting. The company told Recode that it conducted a survey of what it calls “repeating hateful commenters,” who leave multiple offensive comments in a given period of time. Regular comments made by these people over time.
Starting Thursday, Instagram’s new nudge feature will apply this warning not only to those who post offensive comments, but also to anyone looking to reply to a comment. One Liz Alcamona aims to make people reconsider whether they want to be “piled up in threads that are spinning out of control”. This applies even if you don’t. This makes sense given that many of the piles of replies to the spiteful comment he thread are simple thumbs ups or tears of joy emojis, or “lol.” For now, the feature will roll out in the coming weeks to Instagram users with their language preference set to English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Chinese, or Arabic.
One of the overarching theories behind Instagram’s nudge feature is the idea of the “online disinhibition effect.” It argues that there are fewer social constraints on how people interact with people on the internet than in real life. Express unfiltered negative emotions.
The goal of many of Instagram’s nudge features is to contain disinhibition online and remind people with critical language that their words have a real impact on others.
“When you’re interacting offline, it’s like watching people’s reactions and reading what’s going on in the room. You feel their emotions. I think I will lose it,” said Arcamona on Instagram. “And we’re trying to bring that offline experience into the online experience so that people can take a beat and say, ‘Wait a minute, there’s a human on the other side of this interaction. You should think about it. ’ can be said.”
This is another reason Instagram is updating its nudge to focus on creators. People sometimes forget that real human feelings are at stake when sending messages to people they don’t know personally.
About 95% of social media creators surveyed in a recent survey by the Association for Computing Machinery experienced hate or harassment during their careers. This problem is especially acute for women and creators of color. social media celebrities, single Stars and international footballer contestants make headlines for being targeted with racist and sexist comments on Instagram, often in the form of unwanted comments and DMs . Instagram currently limits friendly reminders to people who message creators’ accounts, but said it may expand friendly reminders to more users in the future.
Aside from creators, another group that is particularly susceptible to negative interactions on social media is, of course, teens. Her Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, released her internal documents in October 2021. This indicates that a significant percentage of her teens feel worse about their body image and mental health after using the app, according to her own Instagram survey. increase. The company then faced intense scrutiny over whether it adequately protected young users from viewing unhealthy content. Instagram has announced that teens will be discouraged from content they scroll through for long periods of time, such as body image posts. This feature was released in June of this year. According to Instagram, a week-long internal investigation found that one in five of her teens switched topics after seeing a nudge.
Nudges seem to encourage healthier behavior for a significant number of social media users, but not everyone wants Instagram to remind them to be kind or stop scrolling. , some users may resist these features because they feel censored by major social media platforms. And some studies show that nudging too much to stop staring at a screen can cause users to turn off the app or ignore the message altogether.
However, Instagram says users can post anything even if they disagree with the nudge.
“Something I think is offensive, you might think is a joke, so it’s very important not to call you,” Fog said. “You are in the driver’s seat after all.”
Some of the outside social media experts Recode spoke to saw Instagram’s new features as a step in the right direction, but also pointed out some areas that needed further improvement.
Evelyn Douek, a law professor at Stanford University who studies social media content moderation, said: For too long, the only way social media apps dealt with offensive content was to remove it after it was posted, with a whack-a-mole approach that leaves no room for nuance. But in the last few years, Douek said, “platforms have started to get more creative in how they create healthier voice environments.”
In order for the public to truly assess how well nudging is working, Douek said whether social media apps like Instagram would publish more research, or whether independent researchers would assess its effectiveness. You said that you need to be able to verify the It would also help Instagram to share examples of interventions it has experimented with that didn’t work.
Another data point that helps give an overview of these new features is how many people experience unwanted social interactions. Instagram refused to tell Recode, for example, the percentage of creators who received unwanted DMs overall. Hmmm, but I don’t get the full picture of the scale of the underlying problem.
Given the sheer size of Instagram’s estimated user base of over 1.4 billion, it’s inevitable that no amount of nudging, no matter how effective, will stop people from experiencing harassment and bullying on the app. . There is debate as to the extent to which the underlying design of social media, when maximized for engagement, negatively incentivizes people to engage in inflammatory conversations in the first place. For now, casual reminders may be some of the most useful tools for solving the seemingly intractable problem of how to stop people from behaving badly online.
“I don’t think there is one solution, but I think nudging is very promising,” says Alcamona. “We are optimistic that it will be a very important piece of the puzzle.”