Social Media

How will the removal of 'likes' change Instagram?

So, as I’m sure you are all aware by now, Instagram is testing a new version of the platform whereby ‘likes’ will no longer be shown. Adam Mosseri, the Head of Instagram says the change aims to make the platform a “less pressurised environment” in order to make Instagram feel less “like a competition”.

So, as I’m sure you are all aware by now, Instagram is testing a new version of the platform whereby ‘likes’ will no longer be shown. Adam Mosseri, the Head of Instagram says the change aims to make the platform a “less pressurised environment” in order to make Instagram feel less “like a competition”.

However, this has sparked great debate, particularly between the people who profit from the platform and campaigners regarding the younger generations and their use of the platform. The test is currently being trialed in 7 countries across the world: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand.

With over 500 million active users per day, and 71% of the users being under the age of 35, the platform is used heavily by my generation. And so, as a millennial working in Digital Marketing, my views on the matter are conflicting.

On one hand, I can see the benefit of removal in the sense Instagram has become a truly powerful platform, with leverage on how people view themselves therefore it will take away pressure. On the other hand, it will force businesses and influencers to invest in other methods of marketing themselves which may cost more, but again there are positives with this: it will spark creativity.

Does hiding the ‘likes’ of people’s photos go against the whole premise of Instagram? Will hiding the amount of likes truly make a difference to the harmful perfectionist ideology, or will the images still being as they are – edited and Face Tuned, be enough to enable the quest for perfection in the younger generations?  

There is no denying how easy it is to end up in a never-ending cycle of self-comparison as you aimlessly scroll through Instagram, seeing bloggers and celebrities on their 15th holiday of the quarter. They always look ‘Instagram ready’: tanned and perfectly poised with their white teeth jolting out at you through the screen – a stark reminder that their life is better than yours. But we are in a time, that I now believe users of the platform are coming around to the realisation that this is not reality.

We are seeing the small fragments and snippets of somebody’s life. Bloggers and celebrities are becoming more transparent with this too, posting the truth behind the pictures – or Instagram VS reality as we know it.

We are seeing more makeup-less selfies. The #KeepTheGramReal campaign headed up by TOWIE’s Georgia Kousoulou and Chloe Sims reinforced this, showing that we don’t need make-up to look beautiful, and even if you are in the public eye, you can let people see you without make-up.

These types of campaigns remind me of the good that social media can do.

Stacey Solomun, Charlotte Dawson and Vicky Pattison are other celebrities who frequently post a picture of them looking their best, followed by the morning after or a before and after make-up session. Not only that, there is so much body positivity and empowerment being spread across social media which is refreshing to see.

It seems to me in the last year truthful posts and uplifting messages are starting to drown out the negativity, and I truly see this journey continuing.

I think for the average user though, the changes will make Instagram less vanity centric, and less ego-based which is a good thing. I feel, especially for teens growing up and using social media so much today, the change will be positive and hopefully it will contribute less to the pressure they are facing.

It’s so obvious how social media has impacted teens – no longer do they wear concealer lips, nor do they go through the bad hair-cut phases: they know what looks good as they copy from their screens and role models.

As you walk down the street you can see teenagers constantly taking selfies, Snapchatting and posting Instagram stories. They are certainly growing up believing you must do this to remain popular and relevant – it’s part of their lives now.

In my dissertation I looked at the effects of social media. My study into the topic discovered there was growing evidence that social media addiction is a developing problem, particularly among teenagers. However, there is no instrument in measuring social media addiction; obstructing further development of the research field. The phrase ‘Internet addiction’ has been labelled too unspecific however, as individuals do not seem to be addicted to the Internet itself, but to online activities.

Internet addiction has also been portrayed as using the Internet to escape from negative feelings, using the Internet despite the feeling of wanting to stop, experiencing unpleasant emotions when an individual has no internet access, constantly thinking about the internet and experiencing conflicts or self-conflicts due to Internet use.

In general, I think for these reasons, there should be an Instagram age limit to stop young teens getting sucked into the hole too soon. And I feel the removal of likes is a change that will positively benefit that age group in particular.

Even if images are still heavily filtered and FaceTuned – they will have less of a popularity centric view, and so there will be less pressure on them.

However, from a marketing perspective, this is a change that will impact businesses and bloggers in a different way. For some people social media is their job, and they work with brands due to their influential status. How many likes, comments and followers they have is important.

Bloggers and brands alike will have to be more creative. Brands looking to work with influencers will be looking at other metrics like their actual sales in-store and online, and their click through rates on posts which will incentivise more creative content like video and Instagram stories. Overall, I think the changes are going to make Instagram a more interesting place. People will have to look outside of the ‘vanity metrics’ and brands will have to find different ways to evaluate a blogger or celebrity’s relevance.

The removal of likes may encourage users to post more too. Gone will be the days when users were worried about posting too much and not receiving enough likes. “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” - Facebook Policy Director, Mia Garlick.

It will be interesting to see how soon the change will be implemented across all countries, and what affect it will have on the experience of the platform as a whole.  

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