Instagram begins testing to hide like counts
Social media can be an incredible tool for connecting, learning, and exploring. However, I’m sure you’ll have noticed recent backlash surrounding the links between social media and poor mental health. And now, Instagram is experimenting with the removal of like counts from posts, with only the creator able to see their total number of likes. But do these platforms actually have an effect on your wellbeing?
Various studies have linked Instagram usage to mental health concerns. According to a survey conducted in 2017, Instagram is "the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing", with the platform contributing to higher levels of anxiety and depression, among other issues. It’s becoming increasingly more important to people to have high follower counts and likes on their posts, with some people even deleting posts if they don’t get enough likes. Madness.
Why are likes so important? Likes and followers = money and freebies, some even gaining celebrity status through their page. We call these people, Influencers. The prom kings and queens of Instagram.
Influencers are the ones who hold the power of the masses and are getting thousands of likes per post. Using these people has become a new way of advertising for businesses, by collaborating they are getting reviews for their products that are being sent out directly to their target audience- ideal.
Money isn’t the only benefit of being an influencer. Fame, freebies, and power come from having all these fans, so you can see why people want to be one.
However, people can buy these likes and followers… which begs the question, are they necessary? Some argue likes are purely a popularity contest and are a misuse of social networking.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has previously noted that follower counts are now 'meaningless', while in a more recent TED conference in Vancouver, Dorsey said that:
“If I had to start the service again, I wouldn't emphasise the ‘like’ count as much. I don’t think I would even create ‘like’ in the first place, because it doesn’t actually push what we believe now to be the most important thing, which is healthy contribution back to the network."
Instagram removing the like count feature wouldn't suddenly eliminate all such problems from the platform entirely. If Instagram can somehow reduce the emphasis on portraying only your best moments it could help to reduce the negative impacts the platform causes.
Likes would still be a key element, but the reduced exposure could lessen the pressure on people to use it as a measure of perceived popularity, making them feel less self-conscious about what they share.
What do you think?
Blog post by Suzannah Clitheroe
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