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For teens, navigating the mental health pitfalls of Instagram is part of everyday life




When Elyse Stieby opens her Instagram app, among the first things she sees are weight loss tips on the “explore” page: The number of calories in eggs, a medium coffee and a potato.

Stieby says she tries to just look at photos of her friends’ posts, rather than the recommended content Instagram serves her in her feed and through the explore tab — the app’s version of a personalized landing page and search bar accessed through the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the app. But she says she knows the app’s algorithm chooses what it shows her based on what it thinks she wants to see — so the makeup, hair and body tips are tough to avoid.

“I don’t need to lose weight. I’m 102 pounds,” said the 18-year-old materials science major at Ohio State University.

Experiences like Stieby’s are at the center of a storm of criticism surrounding Instagram owner Facebook. In September, Facebook paused plans for an Instagram app designed especially for children after lawmakers voiced concerns about the app’s effects on young people’s mental health. Instagram is supposed to be for children older than 13, but kids younger than that have been able to get on the platform. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents to the Wall Street Journal and the Securities and Exchange Commission that suggested the company knew that the use of Instagram may hurt the mental health of young women and girls. She testified in front of a Senate committee saying Facebook put growth and profit above anything else. Facebook has fought back, denying the claims.

Instagram has been steadily increasing the amount of recommended content it shows people. In July, the app started putting videos from people you don’t know right alongside your friends’ posts in the main feed. And the explore tab — a curated collection of algorithmically recommended content — is a wild West of images the app thinks you will like based largely on other posts you’ve interacted with. Impressionable teens may ultimately pay the price as the explore tab spits out content including idealized images and dubious “self help” recommendations.

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Social media apps Snapchat and TikTok have also been criticized for promoting content that could warp self image or encourage harmful behaviors.

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Still, experts say there are some steps teens, parents and schools can take to help teens handle the challenges that come with social media use.

While some experts caution that the impact of social media on mental health isn’t fully understood, others have found demonstrable effects.

“The idea that Facebook just learned about this, as a problem for kids’ mental health, is complete baloney,” Jim Steyer, founder and CEO of family advocacy organization Common Sense Media, said.

How the recommended content works

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The photo feed we see on Instagram is typically filled mostly with posts from accounts we follow, and the same is true of stories, temporary posts that hover at the top of the feed and disappear after 24 hours.

But we can’t control what shows up in the explore tab or the slots for recommended posts inside our feeds. Instagram’s algorithm selects those based on a few factors. According to the company, it’s determined by the post and account’s popularity, whether the user has interacted with posts from that account before and the types of the content the user has interacted with even if they just tapped to read a caption or look closer.

Unlike your “Ads Interests,” which Instagram uses to target you with ads and which are listed under Settings — Security — Access Data — Ads Interests, you can’t view what types of recommended content the app thinks you want to see. The only way to cut back on unwanted content is by clicking on the offending image in the explore tab, tapping the three dots in the corner and selecting “Not Interested.” Over time, the app should show fewer similar posts. You can also ask to see less sensitive content, which includes bare bodies, drugs and firearms, by going to Settings -> Account -> Sensitive Content Control and choosing “Limit Even More.” Instagram automatically limits sensitive content for people under 18.

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Teens are savvy, but ‘the algorithm’ is a burden

Gloria Wetherbee, 20, took a social media marketing class as part of her coursework at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas, where students learned the best ways to compel audiences to interact with content. The class made her more aware of the ways content creators and social media companies drive engagement as she tries to avoid images of idealized bodies on Instagram, she said.

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She’s careful not to tap on images of influencers, fashion tips or weight-loss content. Even sending them to a friend to make fun of the images means she’ll see more of them, she said. Instead, she carefully scrolls past them.

“I know part of the algorithm is sending new things and seeing what sticks, but I feel like I’ve honed my usage down so I don’t get it as much any more,” Wetherbee said.

Stieby says her explore page on Instagram has some self-help infographics with messages like, “Don’t let technology blind and consume you.”

The boys she knows see different content, she said.

“A lot of stuff is about the way you look and feeling pretty, or how to get skinnier or more toned or, ‘This is how you do your makeup so that guys will like you. Wear this perfume so that guys like you,’ ” she said. “But a guy’s Instagram, it’s like, ‘Oh, look at this car, it makes a cool sound.’ “

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Discrepancies in the ways boys and girls use social media — and the content they’re served — ring true for many teens, Wagstaff said. As Stieby put it: Boys see cars, girls see beautification tips.

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But that doesn’t mean boys don’t struggle with self image, according to Wagstaff. Researchers are uncovering more instances of disordered eating in men, she said. And body image issues aren’t the only social media trap boys can fall into: Some pockets of the Internet promote violent or bigoted ideologies and teen boys are especially vulnerable, she added.

Ways to mitigate impact

Some parents may feel the itch to snatch the phone and ban the app. But pause a moment before launching your teen’s smartphone into the nearest body of water.

Kids that get their phones taken will likely get their hands on a new one, Wagstaff cautioned, and deleted apps can still be accessed from any Internet-connected device.

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Instead, parents, schools and platforms must work together to educate kids not only about the risks of social media, but also about the mindset it takes to move through a tough world with confidence and self love, she said. Parents should connect teens with resources to practice mindfulness and self-compassion, both of which help build resilience in the face of constant comparison.

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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August





Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?

This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.

As per LinkedIn:

As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.” 

LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.

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Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:

  1. Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
  2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
  3. Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
  4. Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  5. Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
  6. Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
  7. Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
  8. Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
  9. Learning Python with Joe Marini
  10. Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
  11.  Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
  12. Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
  13. Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
  14. Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
  15. SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
  16. Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  17. Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
  18. Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
  19. Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
  20. Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
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If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.

Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.

The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …





Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

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Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android





Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly


We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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