Instagram announced over the weekend that it will remove the ‘like' counter from photos in the US, in order to create a safer social network.
The photo-sharing app's CEO Adam Mosseri announced on Saturday that the company was going to be expanding the ‘private likes' feature, which still allows users to like posts, but doesn't display them to other users. However, some people aren't keen on the idea.
Will the private likes feature make Instagram a safer, more mindful place?
Private Likes for Public Lives
Instagram, of course, was designed as an inherently public space. However, in recent years, social media in general and Instagram in particular, have come under scrutiny for the effect they have on users' mental health.
According to a study of more than 6,000 12-15 year olds, those who use social media more heavily were likely to report issues such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness. They were also more likely to be aggressive and prone to antisocial behavior than teenagers who shunned social media. Many feel that Instagram encourages users to analyse and assess how many likes each post receives, with users in turn comparing their like counts to friends and celebrities.
However, while some users have praised the move, others have been critical. Rapper Nicki Minaj, for example, tweeted that she won't be using the site any longer.
I’m not posting on IG after this week cuz they removing the likes. Hmmmm what should I get into now? Think of all the time I’ll have with my new life
— Mrs. Petty (@NICKIMINAJ) November 9, 2019
Other, less famous users have also criticized the decision:
instagram is pointless without likes, so we’re just gonna smile at pictures and keep scrolling i –
— ivan (@sweetforyuh) November 9, 2019
instagram is self sabotaging itself by trying to hide likes, thats like chickfila not selling chicken anymore.
— es (@_ebonye) November 9, 2019
Of course, you'll still be able to like other users' photos, and you'll still be able to see how many users have liked your posts. The only change is that the number of likes isn't publicly displayed.
Dark Paths, Dopamine, and Designer Lifestyles
It's no secret that social media platforms, from Facebook to Instagram, design their sites and apps to trigger dopamine bursts in users, when they receive a notification. Facebook almost perfected the craft, and some have attributed the recent problems the network has encountered to this design process.
Dopamine is a “reward” chemical, produced by the body following positive stimuli, such as after certain foods, to motivate continued behavior. The notifications received by social media users are designed to trigger a release of dopamine to help keep users engaged in the platform which, in turn, helps make more money for the platforms.
While removing the likes from Instagram may reduce the frequency and effects of the dopamine bursts for regular users, others are concerned about users whose careers revolve around the platform.
the loss of instagram likes will affect small business owners :/ we use the platform for marketing man
— 🌱 (@xelessence) November 9, 2019
These concerns seem unfounded, however. Users will still be able to see their analytics if they switch to a business profile, while likes and comments will almost certainly ensure that posts are given preferential treatment by Instagram's algorithm.
One group of users who are likely to miss out are, unfortunately, influencers.
instagram is not taking away likes because they care about yall self esteem. they’re taking away likes because they’re tired of influencers making thousands on the platform without getting their cut
— camille (@camiicampb) November 9, 2019
If Instagram is making this change to force ‘influencers' to switch to a business profile, in order to monetize these accounts, and dressing the like-hiding up as a mental health issue, then perhaps Mosseri is more Machiavellian than we thought.
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