Will “Hiding” Instagram Likes Help Our Mental Health?

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With the level of addiction acrrued to social media at this time and the recent feature one of the most popular social media platform “Instagram” is about to roll-in. Vogue shares their own view on this new update as it concerns users mental health.

Instagram plans to remove the “like” feature on the platform in the coming weeks. The experiment which is currently on trial in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Ireland and Italy, is intended to remove some of the pressure that visible likes place on users. This is as a result of the dozens of studies linking social media usage to mental health conditions, and the rising pressure from governments and charities for social media platforms to take responsibility, it feels like a regular update. As things stand, however, the concern is that this won’t go far enough to deal with the mental health problems associated with social media.

Upon introduction of the new system, likes will still be visible to users if they choose to see them, and will still be visible to followers if they choose to manually count them, but the number of likes will no longer appear as a tally under a post. The idea, according to head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, is for “people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about”. If a person already averages hundreds or thousands of likes, it’s unlikely they will start counting, but for the everyday Instagram user, the supposed beneficiary of the update, who may get 25 likes on a post, the counting and resultant effect on self esteem could continue. Take for instance a cyberbullying teen writing, “Wow, you only got 25 likes, just counted,” under a picture, or to imagine your own cyberbullying inner voice shouting the same thing when you tally up your double taps. Mosseri phrased his statement, it will help people worry “a little bit less”, but perhaps not a lot.

Dr Helen Sharpe is a clinical psychologist who specializes in adolescent mental health and body image. She pointed out that the findings from the first trial of this experiment, which started in Canada in May, haven’t been shared yet. Presumably, it had a positive effect otherwise it wouldn’t be rolled out to the new territories, but the lack of visibility on data is concerning, given Facebook’s issues in the past. Sharpe comments “What we need now is really concrete data on what the effect has been, so we (and social media companies) can start making evidence-based decisions about how to make social media a positive force in our lives.” Sharpe thinks the update is “likely to be a helpful step”, but that a larger step will be needed to empower young people to think critically about the images and messages they are seeing than the number of likes they get or see on the posts.