Is Instagram still Instagram without likes?


So I read this CNN article earlier this afternoon and it really got me thinking. If you’re too lazy to read the full thing, here’s a brief summary: Instagram are running an experiment in Canada this week that presents a version of the app which doesn’t allow you to see the number of likes a picture or video has. Only the person who uploads the picture can see. What an interesting idea, especially seeing as I’ve been convinced that these social media companies only care about making the most money – regardless of how they achieve this. Everybody is aware of the impact ‘likes’ have on the use of Instagram. It without a doubt contributes to the success of the app, so removing this feature would elicit an interesting response from Instagram’s consumers – a response that I would be intrigued to observe.

Instagram is not simply a place to express yourself through pictures, even if this was the original purpose. It has now developed into a world of its own – a world where people can essentially create a new persona for themselves. It is a place where how relevant you are in the Instagram society is not determined by how much money you own (as it is in our capitalist society), nor how good a person you are (as it probably should be in an ideal world), but rather by how many likes you get and how many followers you have. These two metrics are usually dictated by your physical appearance. I remember the days when Kim Kardashian used to be mocked because all she ever did was post photos of her face while the rest of the Instagram community posted photos relating to all aspects of their life – family, events, friends, job, even (cringe) quotes. But now, this is what everybody does. I call this phenomenon the Kardashian effect. Of course, she is definitely not the only person who began this trend but being an influencer, she definitely made a huge impact.

So what would Instagram now be like if one of the most important aspects of it is taken away? Surely, this is like taking oxygen away from the earth’s atmosphere. How will we ever be able to live again without determining the worth of others based on their likes? Will we be able to survive? 🙁 Tune in to the next episode of Millennial Guinea Pigs to find out.

But on a serious note, I don’t think this change will actually be carried out, but the concept of it is an interesting thing to think about. Many young people definitely place their self-value in the number of likes they get. But does your validation depend on the likes alone, or on the likes PLUS others being able to see those likes? Do you have a need for others to be able to see your level of ‘relevance’ in order for you to feel more secure? Less vulnerable? More relaxed? Because let’s be honest, most of us – including myself – equate likes to status, or at least to social status. Instagram has become the new cliché American high school movie, where everybody is in cliques and the popular kids chill at the ‘3-figure + likes’ table while the less popular kids gather at the ‘I only post memes’ table. (No shade to memes, I love them). This ‘clique’ culture is all fun and games until ‘comparison’ pulls up a chair to the table and brings its friends ‘low self-esteem’, ‘arrogance’ and ‘unrealistic expectations’ with it.

Instagram can be a lovely place, but it is too easy for it to become a substance of abuse for someone. Too easy to become addicted to its unwritten rules and the superficial sense of fulfillment it brings. Studies have been carried out which show that Instagram activates the Reward Circuit of your brain i.e. the parts of your brain that become active when you receive likes on a picture are the same parts of your brain that become active when you win money or see a loved one (Read the article I’ve attached to the bottom of this post for more). Isn’t this quite a cause of concern, especially for younger children?

I personally think that removing likes would be a good thing. It would make many people uncomfortable, but I believe it would relieve the pressure on people to post to a certain ‘standard’. The only problem I find with this is that you can still see how many likes you have received on a post, only your followers can’t. So I don’t know how much of a difference it would actually make. I still think self-esteem problems would prevail even with this change. But maybe, just maybe, it would help reduce this sense of placing value on a person by how many likes they get. Maybe it would help us perceive others as they are, rather than through the eyes of everybody else. Maybe some of us would feel more secure about our bodies, if we are not comparing the likes we get on a body picture to the likes of say Megan Thee Stallion. Perhaps more relationships would be saved as girlfriends would not be able to harass their boyfriend for liking other girls’ pictures. Lol.

But again, even if likes were taken away, who knows how the system would adapt to accommodate people’s self-validating needs?



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