At the F8 developer conference in April, Instagram announced that they would test a small but significant change: removing like counts from users’ posts. Instead of followers seeing the number of likes on a post, they just see a partial list of the users who had liked it. The company explained that it wants users to concentrate on what people share and not how many people hit the like button. Instagram head, Adam Mosseri, said he wants to relieve Instagram users of the pressure they feel to be validated through the number of likes on their posts. The test will be restricted to Canada.
After Facebook announced this development, some influencers who depend on social media platforms to make their living took it in stride while others didn’t. Maclean’s Magazine spoke to two Canadian influencers who are mostly positive about the change. Allana Davidson, a 26-year-old beauty and fashion influencer from Toronto with 237,000 followers, has no problem with the change, which she doesn’t think will affect her livelihood. She believes the changes would positively impact the mental health of users who place too much emphasis on likes.
Furthermore, Jessica Hoffman, a health and wellness influencer from Montreal who has 280,000 followers told Maclean’s she was taken aback a little following the development. However, after considering it, she felt comfortable with the fact that she no longer has to pressure herself on how well a post will perform. All she needs to do is to put her heart into developing content that her followers would connect with and benefit from.
While followers will be unable to see the number of likes, the poster will be able to know the number of likes their post has by simply tapping on the list of likers.
According to a study carried out two years ago by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society For Public Health — a charity that seeks to enhance well-being — Instagram takes a toll on its users’ mental health. Instagram, they claim, is addictive, causes body image issues, triggers the fear of missing out, and causes sleep deprivation.
Even governments are taking notice of the effect of counting likes. Five years ago, the department of mental health in Thailand gave a warning to the public. They expressed that the obsession that young people have with likes can negatively affect their mental health and also limit the country’s innovation and creativity. And a poll conducted by Anxiety UK showed that more than half of people polled stated that social media changed their behavior negatively. Some of them consistently feel the need to be validated online in order to boost their self-esteem, others simply could not stay off social media unless they turn off their phone.
Instagram’s decision to remove like counts, is intended to relieve this pressure posters have to hit a certain amount of likes and impressing others.
Social media platforms have received a lot of backlash for the negative impact they have on mental health. This move against like counts appears to be a response to those criticisms. Facebook and Instagram announced the plan at a time when Ottawa is attempting to regulate tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Twitter. Facebook has called the move exploratory. So, it might turn out to be a short-lived experiment.
Depending on how many people like it, of course.
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