In today’s world of tech reliance, and social media hype, people are becoming more and more obsessed with maintaining a certain level of attention from their peers. Society continues to get sucked into a digital popularity contest that is measured based on how many “likes,” shares, comments, and, followers you can collect.
This constant need to impress places a heavy weight on being seen and “liked” by both real friends and fictitious online friends that we never even meet in real life. It seems people have lost sight of the original intentions of these platforms, but the social media craze doesn’t look it’s going anywhere anytime soon.
A Growing Problem
While at a glance this seems like innocent fun, the growing demand for “likes” and reaffirmation holds a heavy weight on the youth of this generation. The popularity contest has heavy direct and indirect psychological effects as teens continue to measure their worth based on social media interactions.
While scientific research regarding Instagram’s psychological ramifications is still a new concept, there is already evidence showing just how much the app has negatively inflicted the way people perceive themselves and the world around them. In fact, researchers have concluded that Instagram is the most toxic of the social media platforms, in particular for younger demographics. Studies have shown that the app can affect the user’s sleep, and body image and can contribute to bullying, anxiety, and depression. The issue has reached such heights that developers at Instagram have begun to propose potential solutions.
A Potential Solution
It looks as though Instagram is taking the lead on this initiative. Instagram developer Jane Manchum Wong recently leaked a screenshot of an internal prototype that would remove the like count from photos. The mockup instead highlights the names of friends who liked a post. The account owner will still be able to access their own likes but it will not be public to others that visit their page.
The screenshot shows an Instagram post without a public “like” count and a message titled “Testing a Change to How You See Likes.” The body of the message says, “We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many “likes” your posts get. During this test, only the person who shared a post will see the total number of “likes” it gets.”
An Instagram spokesperson commented on the leak saying, “we’re not testing this at the moment, but exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is something we’re always thinking about.” Social media companies like Instagram rely on “likes” to provide performance metrics and inform the algorithm that prioritizes the content seen by each user. So it is very unlikely that the button will ever go away altogether.
Will Others Follow
Facebook not only has a “like” button but also emoji reactions, including “wow, love, lol, sadness, and anger.” It seems they have no intention of changing this structure anytime soon. When asked about amending the “like” button, a Facebook spokesperson declined to comment.
Through an April TED conference, CEO and co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey mentioned that if he could turn back the clock, he would make some changes to the “like” feature. “I don’t think I would create ‘likes’ in the first place.” Twitter is also exploring the idea of redesigning the site so that “likes” and retweets are less prominent and users will have the option to make “likes” visible if they choose to.
Some say that regardless of the “like” button being available or not on these social media platforms, the social pressures will not be going anywhere. Active users, especially millennials, will still comment and the psychological effects will continue to surface. Others agree that taking out the “like” button would be a step in the right direction and will take the pressure off of the more vulnerable young users.