By John Ployer
Recently, Instagram rolled out a pilot which saw some users lose the ability to see how many likes individual posts receive. Instagram wants to see how users would react to the change before they make it platform-wide.
This came as a surprise to many, as counting likes is one of the national pastimes of Millenials (along with buying houseplants and shotgunning beers).
I was one of the people affected. While surprising to me too, I was very happy to see the change.
Social media has been a huge experiment, one that fundamentally changed how people interact. While the results of this experiment have been mostly good, I’m thankful Instagram is stepping away from this less than healthy aspect of social media.
In today’s internet culture the entire world can judge you — but only the small part of us they can see online.
We get a lot of our self-worth from the people around us. Before social media that was a much smaller and much closer group of people. Today “the people around us” is the entire world, with many people you never met before, and they are all judging you based off of a jpeg.
Now think to yourself, what could possibly go wrong?
As it turns out a lot of us, particularly young people, spend a lot of time finding the perfect pictures and the perfect captions in order to get the most likes. This makes us feel good about ourselves because it simulates the approval humans look for from their peers. To do this we often push glamorized pictures and statuses that give the false illusion that we’re living your best lives.
While it may sound harmless so far, Instagram culture it isn’t all fun and fake news.
Instagram, like all social media, can also make us feel bad about ourselves — feeling as though we aren’t as loved as we thought we were, and feeling looked down on because our pixels got less approval than someone else’s pixels.
Have you ever looked down on someone because their post got 3 likes? Have you ever been disappointed that your post only got 34 likes? You probably have.
If you’ve been a victim of cyberbullying, or have self-image issues, the toxic aspects of Instagram culture are probably well known to you already.
The point here is clear.
Human beings were never meant to get their self-validation from strangers behind a screen.
But because of how social media companies work (more likes = more activity = more revenue) it’s easy to see why they would encourage people to post more about their picturesque lifestyles.
So when I saw that Instagram had taken away public likes, I was taken aback.
This might hurt their revenue, but when you’re a multinational corporation that profits off of addiction I guess you can afford to take that risk.
And I think that risk will pay off for them in the long run.
Based on the responses I saw on social media, it appears a lot of people were sick of basing the value of their content off of likes.
People with the new update can only see the total likes on their own posts. Although you still may be conscious over your post’s receptions, now you don’t have to worry about what other people will think of your total likes. Most important of all now you cannot judge your posts off of others anymore.
We’re all equal now and you alone will get to judge how much “clout” you have on social media.
Many of the problems of social media still exist but I believe this is a step in the right direction. Maybe soon we as a society can finally move back to a more sincere use of social media, where friends and colleagues have real conversations and give honest updates about their lives to people they actually care about.