After more than two years of hearing how social media content might negatively influence teens and young adults, influencer-obsessed social media platform Instagram is finally doing something about it. From now on, Instagram is applying age restrictions on who can see certain posts about weight loss and cosmetic surgery. If you’re under the age of 18, you won’t be able to see details of the latest celebrity diet from someone like Kim Kardashian – and that’s a good thing.
New rules for diet and cosmetic surgery content
The important point to recognize here is that Instagram is not cracking down on the sellers of diet and cosmetic surgery products, in the same way that Facebook might crack down on wild Bitcoin promotional posts. Instead, Instagram is cracking down on the use of celebrity influencers hawking products in such a way that young teens feel compelled to use those products. Those same celebrity influencers can still promote those products, and millions of adoring fans can still buy those products, but Instagram is going to make it a lot harder for young adults under the age of 18 to see that content.
In addition, Instagram will no longer allow anyone to make “miraculous” claims about products from the diet or cosmetic surgery industries. Again, it’s not so much a problem with the product itself (who hasn’t tried a diet every now and then?), but with how the products are being marketed. Does anyone really believe that you can lose 70 pounds in 7 days – and, even if it were possible, would that really be safe?
Problems with the influencer industry
In many ways, Instagram is recognizing that the very people who helped to make the social media platform so popular – celebrity and micro-celebrity influencers – are also the same people who have the potential to bring it down. The last thing that Instagram needs right now is a lot of negative PR about teens committing suicide due to Instagram-induced peer pressure, or a lot of negative mainstream media attention on all the negative cyber bullying that occurs on social media.
Remember – Facebook is already drowning in a sea of negative media attention, and there is currently growing momentum to break Facebook up into at least three different pieces – Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – so Facebook obviously has a vested interest in making sure that regulators and legislators don’t start looking too deeply into the inner workings of Instagram. Thus far, Facebook has been remarkably successfully in keeping Instagram out of the regulatory spotlight.
The new kinder, gentler Instagram
Given this broader context, it’s perhaps easy to see why Instagram has stated publicly that, “We want Instagram to be a positive place.” That’s also why Instagram has been so receptive to influencers such as Jameela Jalil (the actress best known for her role in “The Good Place”), who has helped to launch the #IWeigh body positivity campaign. The whole point of the #IWeigh campaign is to get people to stop obsessing over weight loss or having a particular body shape. Whatever you weigh is OK.
And that might be the big takeaway lesson here. Instagram is reinventing itself as a kinder, gentler social media platform where people can hang out and be themselves, without worrying about conforming to some sort of unattainable beauty goal. And the way you do that is by cracking down on celebrity influencers hawking products specifically designed to prey on the doubts and uncertainties of young teens.