Several social media platforms have recently taken more steps in becoming socially aware. Facebook has taken the well-being of users into further consideration with a feature that allows users who express suicidal thoughts to easily get the assistance they need.
Posts that involve self-injury or suicide are prioritized, and can be flagged and sent to teams working worldwide who review the posts. The next time the user logs on, a page is displayed that encourages the user to reach out to a helpline worker or friend, along with tips and support for dealing with their issues.
The person who flagged the post will get resources as well, such as allowing them to send a message showing they care, or reaching out to another friend or suicide hotline worker for assistance.
“Keeping you safe is our most important responsibility,” the official Facebook Safety page states in a recent blog post.
Janet Barker-Evans, a DePaul public relations professor, said this update to further epitomizes the social support Facebook provides.
“Our lives are largely benefited by the kindness of our friends – and of strangers – who reach out to lend a hand,” she said. “Social media gives us an opportunity to do this in incredible new ways.”
The same applies to those who post troubling thoughts of suicide or self-injury. Barker-Evans said despite physical or emotional distance a user posting such thoughts may have to their network of friends, social media encourages users to send thoughts of support.
“This new ability to ‘flag’ these posts connects the person in need with help if they want it,” Barker-Evans said. “That can mean the difference.”
Another feature added allows users who do not identify within any of the 58 gender identity options to designate their own.
“We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others,” read the Facebook Diversity page. “This setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way.”
Users were also given the option to choose the pronoun that they would be referred to, such as he/his, she/her, or they/their, as well as being able to control the audience who’s able to see their custom gender.
Barker-Evans said the importance in this update lies more in allowing users to control how they are labeled and identified, as opposed to simply being there to allow users to find out each other’s genders.
“To the person who wants to self-identify as something else than the 50 or so options Facebook provided, it means they can control how they are labeled or identified,” Barker-Evans said. “That may make them more appreciative of Facebook as a brand for allowing them to do so.”
She emphasized the importance of social media allowing users to express themselves, and suggested that media that allows us to do so will come out ahead.
Reddit has also recently gone through a significant update. Now, photos, videos and links involving nudity will be taken down if the person in the images has not given permission for the post.
Reddit has generally operated leniently in terms of privacy until this point, with this change most likely influenced after nude photos of several celebrates retrieved by hackers were posted to the site six months ago.
“There’s a lot left to do, but anything that prevents the invasion of women’s bodies and privacy is a good thing,” Laura Springman, treasurer of DePaul’s Feminist Front, said. “These actions often feed into a larger narrative of misogyny and frankly disturbing voyeuristic practices.”
Springman said this is policy is important, as it makes it clear that these actions are wrong to users. However, she finds that despite this change, female celebrities should still be wary of their privacy online.
“Just because a female celebrity is doing public things, like acting in movies or singing, doesn’t mean she’s giving consent to all of her private life being invaded,” Springman said.
These recent changes have proven that social awareness on social media is important to users as websites continue to evolve.
“We are all still part of a community,” Barker-Evans said. “We still need to belong, to be loved, to connect to each other, and to help each other in times of need. That’s what makes us human, and that will never change.”