Last week, a new Instagram update was rolled out in Australia that hides the number of ‘likes’ each post has. This update has started discussions around the impact social media can have on our mental health, and the nature of posting photos for validation. Attention has quickly turned to ‘influencers’ and small business owners to gauge what they think of the new feature. As someone who does not use Instagram to promote anything and has fewer than 500 followers, I thought I’d give my first impression of this update.
Firstly, what is it?
As of last week, Instagram users in Australia will no longer be able to see the number of ‘likes’ a post has. You can still see how many likes your own post has, though nobody else will know, only you! It has already been trialled in Canada and is now being trialled in Australia. As you scroll through your feed, if a post has been liked by someone that you follow, the post will say ‘liked by @useryoufollow and others’. By clicking on ‘others’ you can see a list of users that have liked that post, though not a number. If nobody that you follow has liked a post, there will be nothing beneath it, just the user’s caption.
How do I use Instagram?
As stated, I am not an influencer nor do I use Instagram to promote a business. This means the number of likes my Instagram posts get does not impact my potential income, network, marketing opportunities etc. I am just an average young woman that uses it to post pictures from my travels or a night out, or maybe of something I find interesting. Most of the accounts I follow are my friends, with the odd historical photo, satirical news, illustration, artistic and meme account thrown in there.
I really like the new update
The one thing I noticed when I scrolled through Instagram post-update was that I felt more engaged with the person’s photo, and less with how much attention other people had given it. I thought this was a good thing. Instagram is about sharing content we care about, and the focus should be on that content. I think people will feel more compelled to post content they find interesting instead of curating the perfectly lit scene to increase their potential likes. I will admit I sometimes am reluctant to post something because I don’t think it will get much attention. Now, it doesn’t matter. No one will know whether my post has 10 likes or 50.
It will create an even playing field
Removing the number of likes a post has will hopefully remove the comparative nature of Instagram. I think this will reap some benefits for young people subject to the pressures of social media. The number of likes on a post should not reflect someone’s popularity or worth, and this is the mindset some young teens may have when using the app.
No more celebrity status
I have a friend who once asked, ‘Why do we look up to people we’ve never met? Why can’t we look up to our housemate, our work colleague or our friends?’ I agree with this and it sums up my annoyance with celebrity culture. While the ‘blue tick’ feature has not been touched on Instagram, I am pleased that members of the Kardashian/Jenner clan will no longer have a number in the thousands sitting beneath their posts. Further to this, passively liking something because you know that a thousand other people have will be harder to do.
It hasn’t turned Instagram into a wholesome thing we absolutely must have, just made it less consuming
I will frequently delete the Instagram app off my phone to take a break, and this update probably won’t stop me from doing this. My mental health has never been drastically impacted by Instagram in the long term, though I do see the benefits in taking a break every now and then. Instagram is just a social media app after all, and it’s important to use it wisely. Hopefully with this new feature more people will think about why they are using the app, and still choose to put their phones down and look outside.