There isn't much disagreement that social media is becoming a pretty scary place to be. Trolls are getting angrier and more aggressive, driving everyday users off platforms and prompting a new round of policies and updates designed to keep social media safer. Instagram recently released a round of new features including the option to remove accounts that follow you. Do you know if you've been removed as a follower on Instagram? The new solution is designed to avoid offending or confronting another user, and that's a great thing.
In a letter about the new features, Instagram Co-Counder and CEO Kevin Systrom explained the company was actively looking for ways to keep "Instagram a positive place for self-expression." And that sounds great. But anyone who has ever posted something on social media knows that trolls be trollin' and anything you put out there is fair game for ruthless criticism.
So now Instagram has announced it will let users turn comments off on any post altogether. Systrom also added in the letter that the company is working on rolling out a new heart "like" button for comments because, in his view, he wrote: "Liking lets you show support and encourages positivity throughout the community."
It sure couldn't hurt, right?
But perhaps the most important security update Instagram has added is the ability to remove followers from a private account. Previously, as Systrom pointed out, once you approved a request from a follower, the only way to take them off was to block them, which can seem a little harsh and defensive and could potentially trigger more confrontation. But now, Systrom explained, all you need to do is go to your list of followers, tap the "..." menu and remove them. The best part? They'll never know.
"The person will not be notified that you removed them as a follower," Systrom wrote.
The company will also add an anonymous, 24-hour-a-day support for people users might be worried could hurt themselves, and the reports remain anonymous. These all sound like really important steps to making Instagram a little bit kinder and gentler. And Instagram isn't alone. Other platforms are pushing back against harassment and bullying too.
Last November, Twitter announced new tools to fight harassment, including the ability to mute notifications and beefed up enforcement of Twitter conduct policies, the company announced in a blog post.
Reddit is another online community having internal struggles over the line between free expression and harassment.
A 2015 Reddit user poll revealed, according to Gizmodo, that, “The number one reason redditors do not recommend the site—even though they use it themselves—is because they want to avoid exposing friends to hate and offensive content.”
Social media companies of all kinds are actively looking to quiet the ugliest — often violent and threatening — voices, but that's proving to be difficult as trolls up their game. Ongoing development of solutions like Instagram's new tool to remove followers is an important step in the right direction.