Facebook and Instagram get redesigns for readability

Taking inspiration from line drawings, Reddit and Messenger, Facebook is overhauling the design of the News Feed to make it more legible, clickable and commentable. Specifically, Facebook now makes it much clearer where threads start and end in comments. Meanwhile, Instagram today got a little redesign itself with comment reels now being threaded so you can have sub-conversations in public.

Facebook periodically updates its design, typically stripping out unnecessary “chrome,” or user interface framing, to create a sleeker, more readable look. There’s more and more white space on Facebook, which could be intended to reduce eye fatigue during long browsing sessions and let your friends’ content pop off the screen more vividly.

Facebook’s design team writes “we did not want to just ‘fiddle at the edges’, but rather make something that billions of people use every day less frustrating.”

Both the Facebook and Instagram changes will roll out to all iOS and Android users over the next few weeks.

Facebook comments

Facebook is adopting the Messenger bubble style for comments. This will make threading more obvious, but also encourage the rapid-fire conversations people typically have in private messages. Facebook has been trying to make comments feel more alive recently with fast-moving conversations becoming their own chat windows.

Navigation and like buttons

Facebook has made its navigation and feedback buttons bigger and easier to recognize with a new unfilled line drawing style. The News Feed, Video, Marketplace, Like, Comment and Share buttons now all feature this look. Meanwhile, Facebook is swapping the classic globe notifications icon for a more standard alerts bell. These could all be less distracting to the eye so you focus on Facebook’s content, not its chrome.

Other redesigns for legibility include higher contrast text that’s easier to see and circular profile photos that take up less space and feel more human. Link previews are now a little bigger, too, which could get more people clicking and sending referral traffic to other sites. However, Facebook says today’s changes shouldn’t impact the reach or traffic of Pages. The URL domain is now more prominent, appearing above the link’s headline, which could reduce the likelihood that users click fake/hoax sites that mimic popular news publisher URLs.

Knowing where you are

Facebook wants to make sure you don’t get lost several layers deep beyond the feed. Now you’ll see a more obvious header with a bigger black back button when you dive into a post from the News Feed. Facebook also says you’ll be able to “See where a link will take you before clicking on it,” though it already had link previews, blurbs and URLs, so we’ve asked for clarification here.

Design ethics

As Facebook and Instagram restyle themselves to boost usage, a question arises about design ethics. Is building a better mousetrap beneficial to society? Facebook and Instagram certainly allow communities and friend groups to grow their bonds, but when does fruitful exchange and sentimental entertainment give way to mindless scrolling?

As former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris discusses in his TED talk, over-optimization for engagement on social networks has created apps that are addictive to the point of being destructive.

Over the years I’ve repeatedly asked Facebook’s top executives like CPO Chris Cox and VP of News Feed Adam Mosseri about whether the company is doing research into how to prevent or minimize internet addiction that can stem from Facebook’s ad-driven business model, and I’ve never gotten a direct answer that indicates they think it’s a priority.

They do care about their users’ experience, with Cox telling me “We’re getting to a size where it’s worth really taking a careful look at what are all the things that we can do to make social media the most positive force for good possible.” But you can always have too much of a good thing.

The execs tell me Facebook wants to make sure all your time spent on its apps is “meaningful”. Yet at some point when people are sitting in the dark alone refreshing the feed over and over, it could be worth surfacing Internet addiction and mental health tips, or encouraging them to connect directly with a friend via messaging.

Perhaps one day our apps will be redesigned not just to soak up more attention, but to warn us when we’re neglecting everything else.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/15/facebook-instagram-comments/

Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young peoples mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young peoples mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young peoples feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate childrens and young peoples body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

Its interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young peoples mental health and wellbeing. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other peoples health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UKs psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media good and bad to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.

Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.

However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. Its also important to recognise that simply protecting young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.

Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

May, who has made childrens mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social medias damaging effects in her shared society speech in January, saying: We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.

In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health

Pics Or It Didn’t Happen: reclaiming Instagram’s censored art

The authors of a book curating 270 images that Instagram censored explain why they are making them visible again

Early in March 2015, artist and poet Rupi Kaur uploaded a picture to Instagram of herself in her room, wearing jogging bottoms stained with menstrual blood. Lying with her back to the camera in a nondescript bedroom, nothing about the image was strange. A few days later, Kaur found her image had been removed, so she reposted it. A few days after that, it was removed again. This time she found out why: Instagrams moderators had deleted the picture for violation of community standards. Kaur responded with a rallying post on her Facebook and Tumblr accounts that was shared 11,000 times. We will not be censored, she wrote.

Kaurs photograph is just one of the 270 deleted images featured in Pics Or It Didnt Happen, a contemporary art book by digital artists Arvida Bystrm and Molly Soda that brings the pictures Instagram have removed back into the spotlight. But the book is about much more than simply shocking us with controversial pictures; both Bystrm and Soda agree that some level of social media censorship is needed. I do understand why censorship exists. Im not free the nipple because I dont give a shit about that, Soda says. But I do think that females presenting bodies are going to be censored more as theyre always going to be in conversation with sex no matter what the topic of the photo is.

@c.har.lee
@c.har.lee by Lee Phillips. Photograph: Lee Phillips

Pics Or It Didnt Happen exposes an ominous flaw in Instagrams community guidelines: women are getting an extremely hard time. For a variety of reasons, we dont allow nudity on Instagram, the guidelines read and yet it bare chested men remain largely uncensored, while topless images of women are guaranteed to be deleted. And it is not only nipples: when Soda and Bystrm asked their combined 207,600 Instagram followers for examples of censored images, the book explains: We began to see patterns in the types of images that had been subjected to censorship. Overwhelmingly, the photos are of female nipples, vaginal secretions and body hair. Presented together, Pics Or It Didnt Happen demonstrates how taboo very ordinary elements of female bodies, such as hair, fat and blood, have become. The stuff Ive had taken down was never explicitly sexual, Molly says. But the thing is, when you have a picture removed, it immediately sexualises it.

Since it launched in 2010, Instagram has helped to democratise the art world, making it possible for young women from different backgrounds to take a spot in a famously masculine industry, promote their work, and find recognition. Many of the women in this book have done just that. One of Instagrams most famous banned pictures, Petra Collinss 2013 crotch portrait is included, along with well-known artists like Isaac Kariuki and Maisie Cousins.

But, frustratingly, the book is very white. It was mostly white women that sent us images after we made the callout for banned pictures, says Bystrm. Whats in the book is representative of what we were sent, which I think says a lot about the state of the art world. And, as Bystrm is quoted in the foreword: White, abled, cis young women, often pretty thin These types of people tend to feel more entitled to their bodies.

The lack of non-cisgender women, and women of colour, is something that should be noted and challenged. But in making a book out of these removed online works, whether you think the photos are good or not, the authors have created an archival document with its own artistic criteria, delivering a deleted contemporary art movement into the hands of those who shun it. As a historical document, the book is interesting, says Bystrm. In 10 years time, things will be different. Instagram probably wont even exist then.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/10/pics-or-it-didnt-happen-reclaiming-instagrams-censored-art