A hot potato: The beginning of the end for Instagram’s ever-ticking ‘like’ counter begins next week, with a small portion of US users to see the feature disappear. Will it drain the anxiety from the platform? Are the days of the influencer nearly over? Nothing quite so dramatic, most likely, but changes to the way social media works are certainly inbound.
At a recent event, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said: “we will make decisions that hurt the business if they’re good for people, wellbeing, and health because it has to be good for the business in the long run.” An uncharacteristic approach for a Facebook-owned company perhaps, but certainly a popular one, particularly amongst the young people the new change targets.
The primary goal of the change is to reduce pressure and social anxieties – anxieties over popularity, presented image, and pride.
Instagram has already begun hiding likes to an extent in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Ireland, Japan, and Italy. I’ve discussed the change with Australians, and the thoughts I’ve heard are positive. Though the first week felt rather strange, it also saw a significant spike in the frequency of posting, as people wanted to get a few posts in when they felt they couldn’t be judged.
As the experiment continued things returned to normal, though a few people continued to be more active. Some of the individuals I’ve spoken to who liked the changes were artists, who wanted to be judged on their artwork not their popularity, and shy selfie-lovers.
The removal of the like counter might seem an insufficient countermeasure against anxieties, as clearly, the image itself is still out there to be viewed and critiqued. However, particularly among teenagers, the opinion of the group can outweigh the opinion of the individual, and thus the likes an image receives can be valued more than the image itself. But theory isn’t proof and discussion isn’t testing: you’ll have to wait and see how you feel about it yourself.
Image Credit: Prateek Katyal on Unsplash