Instagram is turning into PornHub 

Social media accounts need to introduce age policies and censorship for explicit content

Kathrine Hamdan 4 Min Read

Sipping my morning coffee as I scroll through Instagram had always been a relaxing start to my day – I would see the latest news, memes, and gossip pop up on my feed. But that joyous regimen was disrupted as floods of naked women in mesh bodysuits acting promiscuously infiltrated my beloved feed and carefully crafted algorithm. 

The latest “news” had become all about OnlyFans, and my favorite meme accounts had become their promoters.

It made me think, what content can I even look at anymore? Instagram’s once strict community guidelines on nudity are fading, especially with the platform announcing it will now allow transgender and non-binary people to show their bare breasts. So while gruesome Instagram videos come with ‘sensitive content’ warnings, with a ‘see why this post is sensitive’ option, those involving explicit content of scantily clad come with no warnings or disclaimers. This content is accessible to just about anyone.

Now as a 21-year-old, I can at least attempt to filter some of this content on my feed. But what about kids? Out of Instagram’s over one billion users, 40% are under the age of 13. And they are likely to come across this type of content. Just the other day, I came across a post promoting porn star Mia Khalifa’s OnlyFans account, right before I stumbled upon another post sexualizing innocent Disney character Cinderella.

Whatever happened to age policies? I still remember when I was 15 and wanted to watch a PG 16 movie at the cinema, but wasn’t allowed in because of strict age policies. And while that’s still the case at cinemas, perhaps social media platforms need to look at introducing similar measures, too.

Ikhlas Ahmad agrees. A regular Instagram user, she believes people use the platform as “a way to promote their Only Fans and Pornhub accounts. You can’t escape it,” she says.

Because there are so few filters on what people post and how easily promiscuous trends are being normalised, she feels it has become more unsafe for kids who “still have not reached their own moral sense…”

She adds: “It [Instagram] has become a Pornhub because people and influencers are also encouraging this behavior and interacting with it.”

Kids aren’t the only ones affected by this, though. Romantic relationships and marriages are feeling the brunt of Instagram’s inappropriate content, too. 

Instagram’s increasingly explicit content is inevitably creating tension between partners. 

“If your partner is seeing these really sexually derived pictures, they are obviously more prone to have different desires when they look at you. Of course, in a healthy relationship, this doesn’t happen. But again, we all are humans and temptation is just one click away, right?” says Instagram user Ahmad.

“These pictures trigger your emotions. They intrigue you to get into porn again. What if there are people who did their best to get out of the behavior of watching porn? Because it’s psychologically proven that it affects your mental health. These pictures are tempting them to explore that again,” he says.

While porn sites are blocked in the UAE, they are accessible via a VPN (virtual private network). Moreover, people consuming pornography experience brain activation that’s similar to addictive reactions to alcohol, cocaine, and nicotine, according to a study by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

Studies also show that people who engage in compulsive sexual behaviors experience more brain reactivity compared to those who identified as non-compulsive. So, when you constantly watch pornography, the circuits in your brain associated with reward, motivation, and memory are turned on, essentially activating the same underlying brain networks related to the consumption of alcohol and other drugs.

Men themselves feel uncomfortable being bombarded by explicit content on a daily basis on their feed. It has caused one user, Jamil Jabbour, to shut down his Instagram account.

“I don’t feel good about myself [when I use Instagram]… As soon as I created a new account and went to the search – I don’t know if it’s just because I put ‘male’ and I don’t know or remember if they even ask you about your gender anymore – I remember the first thing was pictures of women. I was flooded with pictures of women when I just opened it,” he says.

“I mean, I’m guilty of it, of course I am. I don’t think there’s a heterosexual male that doesn’t enjoy looking at a beautiful woman. There isn’t – if they tell you they don’t, they’re lying. But it becomes numbing, and if you watch more than three videos of women dancing stupidly or making stupid faces or stupid noises on Instagram, it just floods you for the next 15 minutes with the same thing over and over again. Different women doing the same thing, just the same thing and when you’re watching, you just stop and think ‘how stupid is this? How stupid am I? Why is my thumb still moving? I have to get out of this,’” he adds.

Though he says it is “definitely captivating for a man like me who is 30,” Jabbour can’t imagine what it would be like for a boy who just hit puberty. “I can’t imagine what that dude must be going through,” he says.

He explains that one of the biggest issues for men and one of the worst places to be in is porn because of the dopamine rush infiltrating your mind. 

“Instagram is single-handedly promoting a place for that [pornography]…” he says.

It doesn’t help that the brain actually deteriorates in shape, size, and chemical balance when a person views porn, according to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

So, the next time you find your Instagram feed flooding you with such content, remember that you’ve got the power to skip, block, and move on to better things.