Happy Thursday! It is unlike me to post a blog post on a Thursday. However, I thought I would just do a stream-of consciousness and blog about the new update that was introduced for trial in Australia this morning. It has been quite a contentious update which has had many people either wanting it gone as soon as possible or wanting it to become a permanent feature. My thoughts are quite mixed and I want to cover as many bases as possible in this post and hope I can do just that.
Let’s start by examining what the update is and why exactly Instagram has developed such an update. Basically, the update is supposedly a trial for Instagram in Australia. It involves the removal of like-visibility for users on other users posts (meaning you won’t be able to see someone else’s like count and they will not be able to see yours). You can still click in to see whether a particular individual has liked a post but the count itself has been removed. In addition, you can still view your own like count as it was before. Mia Garlick (Director of Public Policy for Facebook and Instagram in Australia and New Zealand) details that the reason behind the recent decision is to rid instagram of “competition” in regards to likes and posting photos. This being so that Instagram can continue to fulfil its purpose as a platform to express individual creativity without said competition affecting the experience. This update has already been rolled out in Canada for some time and has gone beyond a trial period, leading to the impression that it is more of a permanent feature now.
My immediate thought from the update was one of praise for Instagram. I was glad that finally they were taking some action on the toxic culture that has been created by their platform regarding likes. As a blogger and someone who frequents the platform for personal use and to promote a blog, I can see the arguments from both sides. Continuing; I was excited about the shift because it meant that everyone can hopefully be free to post exactly what they want, when they want and how they want, without the pressure of likes and the external validation that we consciously and/or subconsciously seek. I can say from my own experience that I have opted not to post photos during the day or post particular images because of this construct we have created on the platform of a ‘prime time’ (and what is an acceptable photo to achieve a particular number of likes). It’s as if I/we have created this false threshold of likes dependant on our following that we ‘should’ be reaching for a post to be considered successful. Now I know that a lot of people may not be able to relate to this and that is great! Don’t let anything change that. However, I know from experience with myself and through speaking to others around me that this is a very real situation for many people. Therefore, for this reason I think that such an update could have a very positive and very real impact on the content we post and hopefully it will release certain expectations that we construct for ourselves.
There have been a few vocal groups of critics of this particular update – one being the typical ‘influencer’ alongside small business owners and anyone who has worked their a** off to boost their engagement, likes and followers for the purpose of increasing business revenue, exposure etc. Whatever the reason may be, these people make very valid points. While I do not fit in with the business or influencer mould, the fact that I use Instagram as my main source of promotion for my blog, means that engagement is something I certainly look at. However, as I only use my blog for personal satisfaction at the moment, this issue does not affect me. However, that is not to say that I don’t understand the concerns that these other groups are bringing forward.
Additionally, a further issue I noted with the update came from the limitations to the visibility restriction on likes. While other users may be restricted from viewing the like count of others, the underlying purpose of the update was to reduce dependancy, competition and expectations around ‘likes. This begs the question; Why keep the like count for individual users to see their own? My next point is simply an opinion and is based on no factual evidence except by own experience and observation. In my years of using this platform I have formed the opinion that the issue here lies with our own ability to constantly check our like count. I personally have a greater issue with my own obsession with checking my like count and either feeling disappointed that the photo didn’t do as well as it did or feeling happy that people enjoyed the photo I posted. This is obviously an extreme and I personally do not have this much of an attachment to the platform and likes – but the thoughts do cross my mind occasionally. However, I do know that many people do seek robust validation from their ‘like’ counts in determining what photos to post. Therefore, by retaining individual visibility for the user to view their own likes, cancels out the point of the update… does it not? The idea which was attempting to remove pressure off users?
Another issue I had with the update was that there is a major culture on Instagram at the moment that involves buying or using apps to retrieve fake likes and followers. While everyone is entitled to their own decisions I personally do not agree with it. My issue is with the actual milestones reached using fake followers and likes. As a blogger, it is already extremely difficult to reach people. Much harder than it is to get views as a YouTuber or an influencer on Instagram, simply due to ease and accessibility (which is fine, I understand the limitations with what I do and am content with them). However, the use of fake likes and followers has removed the milestones such as 10k followers or 1000 likes, because these have become commonalities in society today because people can get them faster and easier than ever before (quite literally with the click of a finger). Brands work with people who have high engagement and it allows individuals who work and have less followers but have high likes or engagement to still gain collaboration opportunities and sponsorships etc. While I do not engage in this sort of activity personally, I get very passionate about this topic because it is something that really does annoy me. So to do a 360; the removal of like-visibility, it means people who have not worked for their engagement and followers, to look the exact same as those individuals with equal or less (but with better engagement due to the authenticity of their followers). In summary, this means that the whole idea that someone has to work for Instagram or social media success, gets thrown out the window, as it becomes far more difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is fake and it ruins the milestones for those individuals putting in the work. This may seem irrelevant to some of you reading this but in the world of online business and social media (where followers, engagement and overall likeness are paramount), this is an extremely important point of discussion – whether we choose to admit it or not.
Finally, I would like to voice my opinion on the argument made by a vocal minority that suggests the update should be removed because the likes gave them ‘validation’ or ‘purpose’. Yes, maybe the like feature did offer this. However, the fact that you are grounding your self worth on Instagram likes and seeking validation externally is a toxic path to travel down. If you train yourself and your mind, you can become unattached from this way of being on your own. Likewise, if this has become an obsession that has reached the point where you cannot stop obsessing over likes and your worthiness as a human being, you should seek professional help (if it is causing your severe mental or physical distress or harm). At the end of the day and in a perfect world, NO ONE should feel that their worth is based on the numerical count of likes they receive on Instagram. Period.
Overall, I think there are positives and negatives of the update, but I believe there are simply not enough people on instagram who use the platform for influencing to merit the return of the like feature. Most people are just everyday people with no agenda when they are posting. To add, this feature will be great for the younger generation who are on the platform, as it may just take some of the social pressure off for them (we know how brutal high school can be). As I mentioned above, certain tweaks to the feature should to be made in my opinion. However, I believe this update will be positive for the everyday user and I am certainly okay with it, if positive data can be shown to suggest our experience is better off (which I believe it will be for me anyway!)
I took some of the inspiration in my words from;