Updated: Dec 19, 2019
Instagram removed the likes from its app but the pressure to be perfect remains.
Opinion by Savannah Simmons, Opinion Editor
With Instagram being a place where insecurities come out to play when measuring up to others, making likes private will not alleviate stress for users.
“The idea is to try to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition,” said CEO Adam Mosseri to WIRED. “Give people more space to focus on connecting with the people that they love, things that inspire them.”
The goal seems clear, but it will not work if the number is not completely out of sight. Users will still be able to see how many likes they receive which means that the likes, or lack thereof, can still mess with the user. Just because others cannot see their likes does not mean that the pressure will suddenly vanish.
The pressure comes from comparing oneself to others on Instagram. Users will not stop looking at other posters' content without wishing they too were racking in hundreds of likes on their selfies like the influencers that they follow. There are still avenues where people find ways to compare. Comments, which are left less frequently than likes because leaving them requires a little more effort from followers, could become the new form of measuring engagement.
The main question relating to influencers is how they will be able to show engagement analytics. Instagram influencers have a big problem with likes going away but influencers are actually a big part of the apps problem. Users are trying to chase down the perfect idea of how life is supposed to be but it has been revealed that many of these lives are fake.
Former Instagram model Essena O’Neill recognized this problem and famously quit Instagram back in 2015 because of the mental hardship she faced trying to keep up with the facade of a perfect life and body. Her fake persona took a toll on the then 19 year old, who decided she was tired of playing the influencer roll and stopped using the app entirely. Now, five years later, she is back, not on Instagram, but her own website where she shares her opinions and explores ideas she finds interesting and thought-provoking.
Jameela Jamil, though a celebrity and popular actress, keeps it real on her Instagram and fights to help young people recognize that the app does not have to be phony. She has constantly called out influencers and celebrities that promote toxic products and created a movement that contributed to changes in how the app is viewed. "The Good Place" actress started her body and mental positivity account, i_Weigh, which is a place for women to be proud of themselves for things other than just their looks. Jamil’s account helped spur the ban of promoted weight loss products and cosmetic procedures to be shown to anyone younger than 18 years on the app.
In a survey conducted by The Manifest, 55 percent of 502 people said that they “don’t care” about the likes on Instagram going private. It also showed that 25 percent said they disagree and 20 percent agree with the platform's decision. With most of the people not caring about the change, the benefits Instagram is talking about may be going over users heads. For the everyday user, this could either boost self esteem which is the goal, or it could leave a void the likes once filled.
On the plus side, users may feel more inclined to post those pictures of clouds and sunsets they love so much, or a funny photo of themselves when they were young, since no one will know that there were only a few likes to the post which used to be viewed as embarrassing.
Though that freedom of posting whatever is a lighthearted idea to play with and something fun to look forward to, it does not mean that photos putting Instagrammers best selves on display will not continue to be at the forefront of the app.