Users cutting back on Instagram to improve mental health

(Photo credit: Getty Images).
(Photo credit: Getty Images).

A study from Opinium Research found that 17% believe platforms are responsible for users’ mental health.

More than a third of Instagram users in the U.S. are reducing the time they spend on the social media platform, according to a new study.

Opinium Research conducted an online survey of 2,000 U.S. adults in November 2021 and found that 38% of users reported that they used the app less because of its negative impact on their mental health. Almost one in five respondents said they deleted the app from their phone. 

The survey was conducted months after a whistleblower who worked at Facebook, which owns Instagram, leaked internal documents to The Wall Street Journal. The files showed that the company, now rebranded as Meta, continued its efforts to increase the number of teens on the app despite internal research showing that people in that age group said using Instagram increases their anxiety and depression. 

Giulia Prati, VP of research at Opinium, said she hopes that the company’s research prompts Instagram users “to consider their relationship with the platform, think about how it impacts them and realize that there are a lot of people changing the way they engage with the platform.”

Opinium, a market research company based in New York and London, performed the study after conducting research on behalf of the advertising agency Model B to determine how Americans like to hear from brands and companies. 

The most popular methods were via email, TV ads and social media posts, according to the study. The least popular were phone calls, influencer marketing and online ads.

“Influencer marketing was very close to the bottom of that list, which we thought was really interesting given how prevalent it is in marketing strategies,” said Prati, whose company has also conducted political surveys of the British public. 

The surprise result prompted additional research into Instagram, Prati said. 

Respondents provided a mix of responses when asked who is to blame for the harmful impact of social media on users’ mental health. Seventeen percent said social media companies are mostly or entirely responsible for managing the mental health of users. Forty percent said the responsibility lies mostly or entirely with the user. 

As Meta faces bipartisan scrutiny from lawmakers, 55% of Opinium respondents said they think social media companies should do more to remove offensive and toxic content from their platforms; 34% said the companies should do more to remove content that promotes an unrealistic body image; 27% said companies should change their algorithms to show more content promoting positive mental health; and 15% said the companies should impose time limits on users. 

Despite the criticism social media companies have faced and Opinium’s research, Prati thinks Instagram does have positive effects.

“I don’t know that there is a strong message here saying, ‘Don’t use Instagram.’ I certainly wouldn’t say that. It remains a very valuable platform. A lot of companies find value in it, and I think there are ways to engage with it that are very healthy,” Prati said. 

A goal of the study, she said, was to provide “an additional data point for folks managing PR or marketing of brands and companies to consider as they are looking at the platforms at their fingertips.”

This story first appeared on PRWeek US.

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