We need to talk about Instagram.
It’s been a big day on the ‘gram following their decision—and subsequent immediate rollout—to remove the ‘like’ count from Australian accounts.
Users can now see how many likes their own photos get, but their followers won’t be able to. Similarly, they can’t see how many likes other people’s photos get.
Shut. The. Front. Door.
But how will we know how popular other people are? Or who to follow? If a like can’t be seen publicly, does it still count? And what was the point of spending $10 a month buying 1000 fake likes per photo if no one can see them?
“We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves. We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love.”
Mia Garlick Facebook Australia and New Zealand’s head of policy.
I’m going to let you in on a secret, Instagram likes don’t determine your worth.
They don’t make you a better human than the person next door and they won’t save you from being diagnosed with cancer, losing someone you love or paying your bills.
I am not ashamed to admit that while I’ve never been about the numbers, there have been times I’ve felt disappointed or frustrated when a photo I’ve shared hasn’t ‘done better’ in terms of engagement.
It’s the nature of the beast, and I am mature enough to realise this isn’t a reflection of me as a person. It doesn’t mean people suddenly don’t like me or that I’m a bad human being.
Sadly, not everyone sees it that way. For some, ‘likes’ have been a powerful, and brutal, barometer of their popularity, self-worth and value as a person.
There are so many ways social media messes with our heads and our self esteem—especially when people start to compare their lives to other people’s curated, filtered feeds.
It can also fuel competition and comparisons for people across all ages and industries, although teenagers and young people are particularly vulnerable.
A 2017 UK study which found that out of five major social networks, Instagram was the most harmful to young people’s mental health, with many using the platform to gain approval for their appearance and compare themselves to others.
Teenagers are the first generation that cannot imagine life without the internet and in some ways, their online interaction can be positive, allowing them to find a sense of belonging, but for others, there is a constant, addictive, need for the recognition and approval—all based around appearance.
It’s like stepping into a mental health minefield; never mind the danger, weirdos and creeps they are unwittingly opening themselves up to.
Removing the ‘like’ count is a step in the right direction when it comes to easing the pressure and removing some of the stress caused by social media.
It won’t change how I use the platform; I’m going to keep interacting with the accounts I love; I’m going to like and comments on their photos and videos and respond to their Insta Stories, because that let’s them—and Instagram—know that I like having them on their feed and that I value them.
And on my account, I’m going to continue to over share everything from my outfit of the day and cool finds when out shopping, to my latest battle against lactose intolerance and drunken stories.
But most importantly, I’m going to keep having conversations with those who engage with my content, because the friendships that are made, and the conversations shared, that’s what is real.