New research from the University of Georgia suggests another online danger is growing: self-harm Instagram posts . The researchers found that posts with hashtags related to self-harm increased from 58,000 to 68,000 in early 2018 to more than 110,000 in December.
Self-harm or self-harm is defined as deliberately hurting your own body. Some prime examples are cutting or burning your skin. It’s a dangerous way some people use to deal with emotional pain, intense anger, and frustration .
Public display of pain
Published in the International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, the study found a total of more than 1.2 million Instagram posts during the study period that contained one of five popular hashtags related to self-harm : #cutting, #selfharm, # selfharmmm, # hatemyself, and #selfharmawareness.
Three of the five (# self-harm, # self-awareness, and # self-awareness) showed a significant increase in use during the study period. The #selfharm hashtag went from virtually unused at the beginning of the study to more than 45,000 posts in a month by the end of the year. #hatemyself and #selfharmawareness saw an increase of around 3,000 posts by the end of the year. #cutting remained the most stable hashtag associated with self-harm, averaging around 50,000 posts per month .
The researchers also found that users who tagged their posts with hashtags related to self-harm also used hashtags associated with suicide, depression, eating disorders, and feelings of general mental distress.
It has become such a problem that some social media platforms have policies and will remove content that glorifies self-harm. But, in many cases, those posts need to be reported first.
Previous research shows that globally, about 17% of teens have intentionally hurt themselves at some point in their lives . Nearly one in six in the United States self-harmed in the past year. The average age to start experimenting with self-harm is 12 years old. But by that age, children have likely already been exposed to self-harm content, with the average age of first exposure around 10-11 years.
With their move to online forums, users can post tips on the best body parts to cut to avoid detection and how to clean injuries. For teens and others already struggling with mental health issues, these posts can be triggers for future self-harm.