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Why wait for depression, Instagram? Simple nudge to save lives


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Instagram takes preventive measures when a user searches for a #depression hashtag. But the focus should also be on hashtags related to depression symptoms.


Symptoms lead to illness. Then why not address them and reduce the chances of depression. Isn’t it?

I’ll share my ideas based on the nudge theory. But before that let us understand this serious issue.

More than 300 million people suffer from depression, a leading cause of disability worldwide. It’s also the major contributor to around 800,000 suicide deaths.

Sadly, suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15–29 year-olds.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines depression as a common but serious mood disorder that negatively affects how you feel, think and act.

American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that depression leads to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and home.

Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Continuous low mood

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Helplessness

  • Low self-worth (Worthlessness)

  • Stress eating

  • Hopelessness

  • Emotional exhaustion

Existing approach: Focusing on illness

When you search for a #depression hashtag on Instagram, the following screen pops up:

It reflects how concerned the company is toward its members. Depression is a sensitive topic.

Instead of showing the posts directly, a pop-up comes up with a “Get support” option that suggests users talk to a friend or a helpline volunteer.

Great initiative. But here’s my question:

Why not address the symptoms?

Solution: Targeting hashtags with depression symptoms

A pop-up should also come up when the person is looking for a hashtag related to depression symptoms.

In their book “Nudge theory”, Nobel prize winner Thaler and Holberg Prize winner Cass Sunstein explains nudge as any aspect of the choice architecture that predictably alters people’s behaviour without forbidding any options.

Nudging doesn’t mean restricting any option. It just makes the better option more accessible to decision-makers.

Nudging idea

Whenever Instagram users search for a hashtag related to depression symptoms, a screen should pop up with a gentle push to nudge them towards better behaviour.

Here’s the proposed layout:

I’ve not hidden the hashtag which the user is looking for. I’ve just placed another hashtag, on top of it, to alter user behaviour.

Heading will kickstart the connection on a positive note. The body section will let users know that we are in this together.

Based on the mentioned symptoms, I came up with these lists of hashtags:

At the time of writing, this is the existing structure for these hashtags:

Here’s an updated structure:

Copy for the listed hashtags:

#feelinglow hashtag with #itsoktonotbeok nudge

#cantsleep hashtag with #ilovesleep nudge

#feelinglost hashtag with #mindfulness nudge

#ihatemyself hashtag with #selflovematters nudge

#brokeninside hashtag with #thiswillpass nudge

#stresseating hashtag with #mindfuleating nudge

#stressedout hashtag with #feelbetter nudge

Why this change?

Depression is real, but my motive is to not make it a reality for Instagram users. This issue is a world-wide phenomenon taking away thousands of lives every year.

If this change affects even one life, the purpose will be solved. When a person is down, a little nudge can work wonders.

It feels great to be the reason behind someone’s smiling face. The same approach can also be applied to other mental illnesses.

Let’s make social media a better place by gifting users with better options.

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