Some of the latest news surrounding the popular social media platform Instagram is centered around the company's decision to begin testing hiding likes or removing the like button from the platform altogether. This comes as a response to allegations that the platform is responsible for causing a decline in the mental health of its users due to impossible beauty standards, among other things.
The platform wants users to focus on the quality of the content that's being posted, rather than how many likes it has, and also hopes to increase the overall authenticity of the content on the app. Will it work? Does Instagram really need a like button?
The Craving for Followers and Likes
Most people who use social media want their content to get as many likes and followers as possible. In a way, this has become a form of social validation that younger people especially crave. In fact, most of Instagram's users are actually under 35, suggesting that the younger population enjoys such validation on a greater scale.
Turning to services like ViralRace to buy Instagram followers has become a popular method for reaching those goals. This method is a great way to boost your account quickly and can help with long-term growth and makes the slow process of organically growing your page that much easier. Users find it's much easier to find a targeted audience this way, but the argument is that finding followers as a form of validation isn't exactly healthy.
Let's say Instagram becomes like-free. What can you expect? For one thing, the content probably won't change. The fact is, while posts may not be able to accumulate likes any longer, they'll still get comments, shares, and new followers. If likes are "harmful", then by default, followers, page views, and comments must be too. If that's the case, the entire platform is harmful, which seems ridiculous to even consider.
Sure, there will always be people that are affected negatively by what they see on social media. On sites like Instagram, the comparisons can be intense, cyberbullying can occur, and more traditionally "beautiful" people will likely receive more attention.
Perhaps the problem doesn't lie within the platform itself though, but rather in the fact that an entire generation of young people is looking to find validation in a digital world rather than with friends, family, and colleagues. Or, even more importantly, from themselves.
A Classic Feature
Some users are resistant to the idea that Instagram won't feature likes anymore, because it's how they've been able to gauge the success of their content. Likes show people which posts are well-received by the community at large, but they aren't necessarily an indicator of the quality of the content itself; though higher-quality content certainly has an advantage here over its counterpart.
The like button has been a classic feature of the platform from the get-go, and some aren't sure if removing it will actually fix anything.
Is There Actually a Problem at All?
There is some speculation as to whether or not the like button actually presents a problem to begin with, and while this comes down to a matter of opinion, there is some information to support both sides of the argument. For starters, there are loose bits of information that suggest that Instagram actually does have an effect on mental health when used for extended periods of time. According to an article published in 2017 by Time, Instagram was found to be the worst social media platform for mental health.
A survey suggested that a large percentage of the platform's users experience a lack of sleep, fear of missing out, unhealthy levels of envy, low self-esteem, and even an increase in depression. The photo-friendly platform certainly has its share of vanity, but it is the vanity really to blame for users' mental health, or do they have a responsibility to limit their own time on the platform?
The overwhelming consensus is that removing the like button is better for everyone, but it's important to consider the fact that social media has had such a significant impact on our lives because we allow it to. Every one of us has the ability to log off of Instagram, take a step back, and understand that those "unrealistic expectations" we're seeing are mostly fabricated.
Most of the images you see on social media are fabricated, and most of the content that gets posted is just the highlights of someone's life; not necessarily an accurate reflection of what their entire life is like. Letting a mostly artificial existence cause us existential dread seems almost superfluous in the grand scheme of things, and removing the like button may not fix the issue at all.
The Bottom Line
While the like button has been found to have some negative effects on users, the bottom line is that these effects are almost entirely subjective. Anyone who's been negatively affected by the like button has a responsibility to understand why and how such a thing has made them feel vulnerable or unappreciated.
Instagram is an amazing platform for self-expression, and the bottom line is that no matter how genuine you are or how great your content is, someone, somewhere, is likely going to have more followers or receive more attention. That's why personal growth is so important! Rather than demanding the platform changes its very nature, why not demand that we fix our own standards and focus on our personal growth?
It seems almost silly to blame something such as a like button for the myriad of issues that have allegedly developed through prolonged Instagram use, but it looks like Instagram plans to go through with its plan to remove likes altogether.
Only time will tell if this move is effective, and where the platform will head next. We can only hope that those who don't want to see a like button don't focus on any of Instagram's other great features to be removed as well.