Just a note: This post contains real accounts of bullying, such as body-shaming, sexual harassment, and suicide. If you or someone you know is the victim of bullying, please seek help and additional resources at CyberSmile, StopBullying, or Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center.
Having recognition and impact (and big social followings) is what many people strive for, but at what cost is it worth it?
While having a large social media following has its perks, you may not realize the extent of harassment and bullying you might be subject to as your account grows.
And, it could negatively affect your mental health.
That’s not to scare you off of social media forever. After all, influencers, brands, and activists keep showing up to connect, educate, and help people feel less alone.
In fact, I’ve experienced this myself – and people on our team at Tailwind have.
When I became a young mom at age twenty-two and couldn’t afford childcare, I started a blog to create some income and make sense of the craziness in my life. Overall the experience was positive, until I got divorced and became a single woman on Instagram.
As I continued to show up by sharing blurbs of my life and putting my feelings into words, I began experiencing the harassment many social media personalities have shared about.
What had been a safe, creative outlet suddenly became a hotbed of aggressive DMs from men.
After posting about my divorce, I began regularly receiving NSFW pictures, I’ve been asked inappropriate personal questions, and bottom line, I’ve been harassed.
Even though I blocked each account, it seemed every day more would pop up, and at times I’d spiral and blame myself for the harassment.
It’s emotionally and mentally exhausting to be constantly accessible to others at the expense of your vulnerability, and maybe even your career.
My experiences have led me to take long breaks from social media to regroup, which definitely didn’t help my engagement.
Even so, I know what I’ve experienced is minimal compared to many others.
When asking questions about cyberbullying experience for this article, one employee at Tailwind shared that she received DMs from an overwhelming amount of people telling her to “kill herself.” after portrayal in media.
And she was repeatedly bullied and called terrible names after some fans mistakenly linked her to a publicized love triangle, even though she wasn’t involved. It was a case of wrong place, wrong time – and she bore the brunt of it.
Because desire to be in the public eye is considered optional, the amount of harassment Creators receive online has been considered an unfortunate disadvantage of a privileged lifestyle… until recently.
Instagram’s New DM Filter to Combat Bullying
In the past, Instagram allowed users to disable messages from unknown accounts and filter/automatically block specific words and phrases in the comments.
Still, there wasn’t an option to filter DMs because of their privacy rules, despite most harassment taking place there.
And for accounts that receive their income from subscribers and their audience, turning off DMs isn’t an option. That essentially made sifting through awful and degrading messages part of the job.
Can you even imagine what a mental toll that takes?
“Like text messages, DMs are private conversations where messages go to you personally.
That means we rely on in-app reports and don’t proactively look for hate speech or bullying in DMs the same way that we do in comments or posts.” – Telegraph
This has caused brands and individuals to be subjected to abusive and hateful harassment every single day. Nearly every influencer and celebrity has posted a glimpse of the harassment and hate they receive in their inbox, and it’s truly astounding.
No one should have to deal with that, especially when they’re just trying to do a job and pave their own way by following their dream.
But now, that’s changing, as Instagram is the first platform that allows you to filter private messages from unknown accounts through individually pre-set words, phrases, and emojis.
You just have to tweak the filter settings in the new Hidden Words tab under Settings.
This change allows Instagram to uphold its privacy settings while keeping you safe from harmful and abusive comments.
Curious how to enable these settings and make your Instagram experience mentally and emotionally safer? Read on, and I’ll go over what these changes mean and how to implement them!
How DM Filters Make Instagram a Safer Place
Instagram has been working with leading anti-discrimination and anti-bullying organizations to protect users from harassment. Together they’ve made a setlist of words, phrases, and emojis you can enable to block harassment before it even reaches your eyes.
Brands and Influencers noted that private DMs are where they receive the most hate. These proactive actions to balance privacy settings with protection will revolutionarily combat harassment by allowing users to communicate with their followers more healthily and safely.
Once the filters are in place, if you get a message containing one of the flagged indicators, it’ll be sent to a separate Hidden Requests folder where the content will be blurred unless you tap to uncover it.
Then you’ll be given the option to either reply, delete, or report it to Instagram for further action.
This much-needed feature will allow your account to act as a filter giving you both safety and privacy from those wishing to disrupt your inner peace.
How to Filter Offensive Comments and DMs
This new feature will roll out to accounts worldwide over the next few weeks, so make sure to update your app so you can use the filters for both comments and DMs in these 4 easy steps.
- Step 1: Go to your account and click the three horizontal lines button in the top right corner.
- Step 2: Press Settings
- Step 3: Click Privacy
- Step 4: Choose Hidden Words, which will give the option to hide comments and messages with the filters of your choice.
Additional New Safety Measures
In the past, if you reported a comment or DM, the account would be prohibited from sending DMs for a set amount of time. If the harassment continued, the account would get disabled, allowing a single person to harass someone multiple times and even create many separate accounts before they were banned.
To be more proactive in protecting their users, Instagram will now automatically disable accounts that were created to send abusive messages and block preemptive accounts an individual may create to combat repeated harassment.
Conclusion – Hope Moving Forward
“We understand the impact that abusive content – whether it’s racist, sexist, homophobic, or any other kind of abuse – can have on people. Nobody should have to experience that.” – Instagram
While Instagram is a beautiful app to create, educate, and inspire, these new tools should significantly limit the amount of hate and discrimination accounts encounter.
This feature is the first of its kind, and a huge step toward Instagram becoming a safer space for creators, activists, brands, and individuals.
I’m curious, do you think these filters will do what they’re meant to and create healthier boundaries between accounts and their audience? Are you happy about the change? Leave a comment below!
And remember, don’t stop shining your light no matter what someone says to you. You are special and wonderful just the way you are. ✨
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Lauren Noble is a Content Marketer at Tailwind who has been published on Scary Mommy! Lauren owns her own Astrology and Human Design business, Noble Guidance, and lives in Oklahoma City with her two daughters, Madelyn and Roz, and their cuddly cat Theo Moon.