Instagram recently announced a new policy that will restrict anyone under the age of 18 from seeing posts that promote weight loss products and/or weight loss surgery. It’s part of a new social initiative to reduce the pressure that many feel to live up to the perfection presented on social media. The company hopes to make the platform a positive place for everyone, but will this do the trick? And what does it mean for plastic surgeons? Dr. William P. Adams Jr. of Dallas, TX discusses this hot topic with his fellow colleagues Dr. Richard Restifo of Orange, CT, Dr. Christine Hamori of Boston, MA and Dr. Jason Pozner of Boca Raton, FL.
Instagram Restricts Weight Loss Ads
In an effort to target the rapidly expanding and ever controversial segment of “influencer marketing,” Instagram has just announced that it will block all weight loss ads – including body contouring procedures – to users under the age of 18. Currently, this restriction will only apply to those posts that:
- include an incentive to buy
- are accompanied by a price for the product or service
- link to a discount code
- make a miraculous claim about a diet or weight loss product
The goal of this new policy is to help reduce some of the pressures of social media. Also, it’s been found that teenagers are highly vulnerable to “influencers” – whether it be the classic popular kid in school, or one of the many Kardashians on Instagram.
Will Restriction Actually Work?
Dr. Hamori supports the aim of the restriction. “A lot of kids under 18 are using Instagram and they’re constantly taking selfies and looking at themselves,” shes says. “They’re maybe not feeling good about themselves and are seeking ways to feel better.” However, she’s not sure that Instagram’s approach of regulation is right. “Why should they be able to determine what content people are looking at?” Yes, teenagers are young and impressionable, but will this restriction really control what these kids are seeing?
“I think it was heavy-handed, but I don’t necessarily think it was a bad idea,” says Dr. Restifo. He agrees with Dr. Hamori that the restriction is probably not very enforceable; kids will find a way around it. “Furthermore, it’s a little bit of a slippery slope,” he shares. “If they block that, then what’s next?”
Kids Can Still Find What They Want on Google
Dr. Pozner is a big Instagram user: “I just look at cars and guns and watches!” His feelings about the block on these ads is, who cares? Instagram restricts the ads to kids under 18, but they can still go on Google and find anything that they want including someone:
- getting blown up
- having sex with a donkey
The extreme examples are designed to highlight that there are so many more offensive and potentially harmful things that kids can find online than a weight loss ad or cosmetic procedure post. In terms of how this affects plastic surgeons, it may quickly get to the point where surgeons can no longer grow their accounts. “Pretty soon, Instagram is going to be passé in our specialty,” shares Dr. Adams. “But I’m glad that my daughter can’t see weight loss ads. There’s enough stuff out there.”
Instagram is fast going in the direction where they consider, “any plastic surgery as a form of body shaming,” explains Dr. Hamori. So while there is a need for regulation, especially among teenagers, it is, as Dr. Restifo so aptly put, a slippery slope.