There’s a lot of pressure to appear happy on the internet – but there are also times when you’ll see genuinely sad posts from friends who are looking to the Web as their resource to vent and get help. Facebook realizes this, and is now globally rolling out a tool that lets you anonymous flag posts of friends you fear are potentially suicidal.
The tool works much like a regular button that lets you report posts, but you can choose to let Facebook reach out to that friend and offer a helpline or supporting materials to guide them through their difficult time.
Previously, this tool was available to some English-speaking users but will now roll out globally. Facebook says it has a team to monitor flagged posts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In 2014, Facebook came under fire for manipulating users’ timelines to prioritize positive vs. negative posts to see how they affected the user’s emotions. However, we also know Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes posts with comments like “Congratulations” – that’s why you almost always see updates of friends who’ve recently gotten engaged, gave birth, graduated from school, or got a new job.
According to the New York Times, Facebook’s researchers found that posts with negative associations typically received long, empathetic comments – so it wouldn’t be surprising for this to surface more for feeds of friends who regularly communicate with the original poster.
In an era where smartphones and social media are an extension of ourselves, this is a small but impactful step in letting friends offer help where possible.