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The Perils of Moderating Depression on Social Media

Over-policing mental health content risks alienating people who use social media for good

Social media is often blamed for harming people’s mental health. Dystopian headlines like “Six Ways Social Media Negatively Affects Your Mental Health” and “Yes, Social Media Is Making You Miserable” dominate our news feeds. So it’s no surprise that the world’s most popular platforms are implementing policies to protect their users’ well-being.

Moderating mental health is a monumental task. While most social media companies say they don’t permit posts that might harm users’ mental health, they face the extremely difficult job of deciding what counts as harm. The problem is that we know precious little about what each company defines as “problematic” content, and that’s worrying, because conversations about mental health don’t always look like what you’d expect.

For our latest New Media & Society article, we wanted to know how people were talking about depression on Instagram. We researched the #depressed hashtag, and our initial data set included 3,496 public posts collected over a 48-hour period in March 2017. Our most significant, and surprising, finding was that only 15 percent of users who post with the #depressed hashtag do so with what we call “real name” accounts (through which users share their name, pictures of themselves and other identifying details).

Please select this link to read the complete article from WIRED.

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