See A Concerning Post Online? Here’s What You Should Do

A good portion of our days is spent online, whether we're sharing articles on Facebook, posting vacation photos on Instagram, tweeting reactions to the election, or trying out the latest Snapchat filter. Much of the dialogue around our online lives has focused on how each of us, as individuals, can protect ourselves from hackers, trolls, and misinformation. But what do you do when you see a friend, or even a stranger, post something that is seriously troubling or just feels off in a way you can't quite put your finger on? "If you see a post that is an imminent — someone says, 'I'm done with life,' or, 'I don't want to live anymore' — then you need to report it to law enforcement," says Daniel J. Reidenberg, PsyD, the executive director of the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) and managing director of the National Council for Suicide Prevention. Reidenberg has worked with tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Apple, to develop mental-health resources for users. But if the post isn't as clear, the guidelines around what to do can seem less clear. In a case like that, Reidenberg says that the most important thing is to reach out to a friend directly, either online or in person. "Say you're concerned and offer help and assistance," he says. "Often, when someone's in a crisis, they don't see alternatives or options. Offering to help connect them with those resources for those kinds of things can make a huge difference in helping someone." If you aren't able to get in touch with someone, reporting the person's status or post to the social network is a smart step. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat all offer tools to do so, in addition to extra resources where you can direct someone or get more information yourself. Read on for a comprehensive guide to what each network has to offer.


For dealing with issues of mental health and safety, Facebook is, by far, the most advanced social network. In June, the company updated its mental-health resources, offering more tools to both the person who sees a concerning post as well as the person who posted it. If you would like to report a friend's status to Facebook, you can do so, here. After you do that, Facebook will review the post and offer the person who posted it three options to choose from: talking with a friend, reaching out to a helpline, or finding support and tips online. You can find more specific details about how to get help yourself or the best ways to talk to a friend, here.
Photo: Courtesy Facebook.


Instagram followed in Facebook's steps last month when it unveiled the same in-app support options. To submit an anonymous report, press the dropdown ellipsis to the right of the person's post and select "report." When you do so, your friend will get a message that says, "Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we'd like to help." From there, they can choose from the same three options that Facebook offers.


Snapchat's offerings aren't as robust as Facebook and Instagram's, but there are still steps you can take if you think you see a safety concern on the app. The easiest way to notify the company is by emailing or by filing a report on Snapchat's support site. You can also visit Snapchat's Safety Center, where there are additional resources and links to external sites including The Trevor Project and ConnectSafely.


Twitter's online safety tools are almost identical to Snapchat's: You can report a troubling tweet or find contact information for the site's mental-health partners — the Crisis Text Line, Lifeline, Stomp Out Bullying, Online SOS, and SAVE. To report an individual tweet, click the dropdown menu next to the right of its "like" icon and select "report tweet." There is no "I am concerned about this person" option, but you can choose either "It displays a sensitive image" or "It's abusive or harmful."
"What we don't want is for someone to see something and not do anything about it," Reidenberg says. "But oftentimes, people are afraid to." As we head into the holiday season — a difficult time for many people — remember: The worst course of action is no action at all.

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