While this is not new to people living in Australia, Instagram has recently removed the ability to see how many people have liked posts in the USA, so the debate has started up all over again. With this move bringing up other topics such as mental health, I feel like #theressomethingweneedtotalkabout.
Australia has gotten used to the idea, with our ability to see likes gone a few months ago (haha though my laptop obviously doesn’t know I live in Australia because I can still see likes on there), but the USA and its influencers are having mixed feelings on whether this is a good idea. Some people are saying that it’s going to help people’s mental health while others are saying that it’s going to affect their jobs. While Instagram (and Facebook who own Instagram and who has also started to take away the ability to see likes) is way bigger than this little blog of mine, I thought I’d break it down a little bit and see whether taking away certain social media options is really going to help the world in the long run.
Let’s first start with mental health. Mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community” (World Health Organisation). There is no denying that more people are getting diagnosed with a mental health disorder every day. Whether this is because people are just more open about it these days or because society is getting more stressful is yet to be determined, but never the less, any conversation is a good one. When looking up statistics to include in this post, I was surprised to find that nearly one in five Australians are living with a mental health disorder, with this including things such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and that young people are most at risk.
So when considering these mental health statistics, it’s not surprising that we all want to do something about it and social media companies are with us on that. It’s interesting really because this is a prime example of how business is shifting from profit and the bottom dollar to corporate social responsibility (haha a marketing term I’m all too familiar with). From an outsider perspective, it certainly doesn’t seem like Instagram and Facebook are benefiting in anyway financially, but they’re benefiting in a huge way with customer service.
Does removing the ability to see likes really help us though? The social media companies say that it’s to reduce the competition that we created, which I think in some sense is true, and this is then meant to reduce pressure and anxiety among young people. However, there are still flaws in the system. For a technological point of view, whose to stop people from counting the number of likes (if they got desperate) or taking screenshots and sharing it with their friends. Even still, what’s stopping it from this “likes” competition turning into a “number of followers” competition. The biggest flaw I believe is how we wire our brain in society (haha this is slightly complicated, but I’ll try to explain it as best as I can). I’m the first to admit that while deep down I know that number of likes really doesn’t matter and it’s not a reflection of how good that post was, you can’t help but feel happy when a post does well. For this reason, it’s easy to see why people get hooked up on the number of likes because it releases the happy hormone, dopamine, and that feeling gets addictive. With technology taking over our lives too, you can see why we look to social media for that boost. However, that “boost” is also fuelling this downwards spiral as social media allows us to compare ourselves to others, which is a natural thing, but in abundance in this situation. This results in us wanting more likes to feel better about ourselves and the trap starts all over again. Therefore, as a society, should we not be teaching ourselves and the younger generation to start loving who we are and getting confidence from within and to stop comparing ourselves to others because you offer something completely different than anyone else? Share that photo because you’re proud of yourself or love the way you look and want to tell everyone about it, don’t share it because you think you’ll get more likes.
However, what about those people who share photos for a living? An “influencer” is a relatively new term and if we’re looking at the proper definition it’s “a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media”. As a marketing student, I’m well aware of the power of influencers as they provide the best form of marketing there is, word-of-mouth, but in this situation, it can be controlled, so it’s a win win, marketers get out the message they want and influencers get paid to post on social media. Now influencers aren’t too happy about Instagram removing likes because they say that it’s going to affect their “job” (who would have thought 10 years ago that posting photos would be a job!), and there are a few influencers who have shared this view online, crying in videos. To an extent, they have a point, as brands do look at the number of likes you get, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. Brands are looking at engagement rates, first and foremost, so this is where the number of followers competition may come into play. While you may have 10,000 followers and they all engage in your post, a brand may now look at someone with 100,000 followers and even though only 5,000 of them engage with a post, a brand won’t know that now and may go with someone who has more followers instead. As removing likes is still a fairly new thing, it’s yet to be seen if this actually happens, but I think it’s fair to say that influencers won’t be going anyway anytime soon!
So after weighing up the two sides what do I think? Firstly, influencers will get over it because they can adapt, just like labourers adapt when machines are upgraded. I also think Instagram and Facebook are doing their best in this ever-changing world. It’s not their fault that people are comparing themselves to others and that mental health disorders are on the rise, but they’re doing their part to help. On this note though, I think we need to start doing our part too and start caring less about what we post and who likes it. Let’s put things into perspective and just start enjoying what we have because life isn’t all about likes!