BREAKING NEWS: Instagram Likes MIA

It’s probably hard for most of us to imagine a world where Likes don’t matter. I remember when I was 14 and a selfie I got before Clubland got 24 likes on Facebook. I’ve never felt as famous. But finally, finally, someone has caught themselves on and realised the damage social media pressure is doing to us. Instagram. Is. Getting. Rid. Of. Likes. Supposedly.

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The new feature has been in the works for a few months now, being tested on small groups of users since July in over 7 countries including Canada, Australia and Japan. It’s just about to be trailed in US, meaning it most likely will be active worldwide in the pretty near future. And it’s giving Instagram users a lot of mix feelings.

So what will the change mean? Rather than seeing the number of people who Likes a post, Instagram will show “Liked by [who you fancy If you’re lucky] and others“. Meaning your followers will never know the number of Likes your post got. I mean they technically could count all the users, but who’s really gonna be so bothered to do that? I hope no one. Please spend your time on something more beneficial. If you want too you can see the number of Likes your post got if you click onto it, but only if you chose to do so. It’s easy to avoid the number if you want too. Good bye Instagram Anxiety.

Why are Instagram doing this? Isn’t liking pictures the whole point?

Basically Instagram wants to become the safest place on the internet, with the happiest users. It’s no shock that Instagram has been heavily criticised about its effect on mental health, especially to Generation Z. A 2017 survey carried out by The Royal Society for Public Health & Young Health Movement proved Instagram to be the most likely platform to have a negative effect on young people’s health and well-being. So, when announcing the change Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said,

“the idea is to de-pressurise Instagram and make it a space that’s more focused on connections, conversations and community, especially for young people.”

He wants the app to be a fun place for people to share and connect, not a place where you value your worth over a number.

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So, on a personal level, what do I think of this? I think it’s great and something that should have been done long ago. My personal attitude towards Instagram has changed a lot over the past few years. I’ve grown up (believe it or not) and I do not value my worth through who Likes my Instagram. I post what I want, when I want, as much as I want. Yet, when I was 16, a lot less confident and a lot more vulnerable, my attitude was completely different. A night out was a waste if I didn’t get a photo for the gram, and even If I did get a photo, was it really Insta worthy? Would it get good Likes? What if no one Likes it? What if it gets less Likes that my last photo? How come she got loads of Likes and I didn’t? I’d turn off my Instagram notifications after I uploaded so I’d never know if my post was getting Likes or not. And the most ridiculous of all, but I know you all did it too, I would have waited until “prime time” to post to make sure I’d get the best chance of Likes. Why was there RULES for posting a photograph on Instagram.

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So many unnecessary worries for a young teenage girl, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt that, wouldn’t we be lucky if that was all we had to worry about nowadays. So yeah, the removal of the Likes feature will be a definite step in the right direction, but it’s only the first step in making the platform a safe and happy place for users. Have Instagram forgot about the comments? If Instagram are really looking out for the safety and happiness of their users, this is the real danger. Even Cardi B and Kim Kardashian have called Instagram out on this saying much more needs to be done to protect its users, starting with the removal of the comment feature.

All this aside, we must think of the people who aren’t using Instagram for personal use. Canadian Influencer Kate Weiland is not one bit pleased about the new change as Likes are what tells her what her audience enjoy, and what they want to see from her. She looks at Likes as though it’s the audience clapping at the end of a performance. Without Likes, it’ll be an awkward silence.

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Influencers, artists and celebrities relay a lot on their Instagram performance for income. Influencers are freaking out about how the change will impact their income, if not their entire career. Thinking if brands can’t see the number of likes their racking up for a sponsored post, how will they know the impact they have on consumer behaviour? How will they impress brands and make them want to approach them for sponsorship? But brands have spoken out about the issue and have explained how to them, likes are only “surface” level and what they care most about is other metrics such as engagement, URL clickthroughs, swipe ups and all that influencery stuff, which is a lot more important than a Like on a photo that most people probably forget about after they scroll past it, or Like on reflex without even realising it.

The change will mean people will be more experimental with their content, something I’d love to see. Influencers and celebrities will engage more with their followers about real stuff,  not what they think will get the most likes. And us nobodies, we’ll post what we want to, without thinking what our followers will think of it. I give Instagram a round of applause for the first step in taking away with social media pressures we all face today.

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Catherine Maguire is a Final Year year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire

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