Goodbye Instagram likes: Mental health expert praises social media giant’s move

Dr Ashwini Padhi from Western Sydney Local Health District wants other social media platforms to follow Instagram’s lead.

A western Sydney mental health expert has praised Instagram’s move to trial the removal of likes on posts, following a major change to the Australian version of the platform today.

Australia is one of the first countries in the world to trial the new format, a move hoped to improve people’s mental health.

Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) perinatal and child youth mental health director Dr Ashwini Padhi urged other social media platforms to follow suit, having seen first-hand the devastating effects social media obsession can have on his young patients.

“Depression and self-harm has been linked to social media use particularly in the child and youth population,” Dr Padhi said.

“Recent literature and evidence suggests youth who self-harm have a higher tendency to be active on social media compared to youth who do not engage in self-harm behaviour.

No more likes in Australia from today.

“Internet addiction and excessive pre-occupation with social media is on the rise and we are seeing increasing numbers of children and young adults presenting with these issues at Redbank House.

“This is a good move by Instagram and other platforms should follow.”

Dr Padhi said young people are vulnerable and easily pressured by social media, driving his team to start work on guidelines for patients.

“Social media creates a virtual world that is not aligned to the reality of this world,” Dr Padhi said.

“In our youth mental health services, we always consider how much access we allow patients to have on social media.

“We are exploring a program that will talk about the dos and don’ts on social and digital media for our patients.

“We want to ensure people do not succumb to the pressures of social media. We want young people to develop emotional resilience and not get unduly influenced by negative messages on social media.  

“It is clear to us that some people become anxious, depressed, moody and irritable without access to social media.”

Dr Padhi outlined some of the criteria used to determine if a young person is showing signs of internet addiction:

  • Checks his or her phone first thing in the morning
  • Has changes in mood when access to internet/digital media is limited
  • Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities prior to having access to internet
  • Neglects homework or household chores to spend more time online
  • Tries to minimise time spent on internet or digital media
  • Prefers spending time online instead of social interaction
  • Becomes agitated or distressed if access to internet is stopped

Dr Padhi highlighted the importance of a reality check.

“It’s important to spend time with the family, be part of the real world and get together with friends,” Dr Padhi said.

“Social media has its pros and cons but it shouldn’t take over someone’s life. Be moderate and responsible.”

If you are concerned about your internet addiction, seek help.

If you are in a crisis situation and would like some support, the following organisations can help you:

  • Mental Health Hotline (Open 24 Hours) – 1800 011 511
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 46 36
  • Men’s Help – 1300 78 99 78