Source: GIPHY

Written by Annie Hobson

If you post a picture on Instagram, do you care about how many likes it receives? Do you feel validation with the more likes it gains? Do you feel nervous or anxious when you post a picture in anticipation of how many likes you’ll obtain? 

In a generation of digital natives, the most common answer is likely to be ‘yes’. Healthline, a source educating its readers about health and wellness, explores the idea of social media having detrimental effects on an individual’s mental health. It says, ‘there is in fact a causal link between the use of social media and negative effects on well-being, primarily depression and loneliness.’

Instagram and the removal of ‘likes’

Instagram has recently just celebrated its 19th anniversary, the photo-sharing app launching in October 2010. With the tagline ‘capture and share the world’s moments’, Instagram was solely created for app users to share photos with their followers. Although the app essentially still has the same concept, Instagram experienced a significant shift with the arrival of influencers, those creating a business for themselves on the platform. As the app grew in popularity, there was a subsequent surge in influencer marketing, Media Kix found in 2019, 80% of marketers said utilising influencers on Instagram is one of the most effective forms of marketing.

Instagram have accepted this shift and made steps towards capitalising the platform for influencers with the creation of business accounts and the insights tool. Instagram announced in August, it will be trialling the removal of likes on posts across many countries. “It means we’re going to put a 15-year-old kid’s interests before a public speaker’s interest. When we look at the world of public content, we’re going to put people in that world before organizations and corporations,” says Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram. Many argue that Instagram has lost its authenticity and creative energy due to the takeover of influencers which, in effect has increased the negative impact the app has on its users mental health and by the sounds of it, CEO Mosseri agrees and this change is an action to combat this.

How will this impact influencers and brands?

As you can imagine, this announcement saw those who have built their careers on the app and exploit the platform as their main stream of income, in uproar. They feel everything they’ve created and manifested online has been ignored and overlooked in this decision. The number of likes they receive is a representation of how successful they are as an influencer and what makes them attractive to brands. Without this feature, it will not only effect influencers engagement, but also the ability for brands to choose the correct talent to work with.

Interestingly, blogger Lydia Elise Millen made the statement: ‘Not for a second did I believe that the removal of likes was for the benefit or health of Instagram users.’ She believes the motive was merely financial gain for Facebook, who own the app. The rising rate of influencers is seen to be an opportunity for Instagram, gaining more control over the platform. By removing the analytics, which are considered to be the only measurable unit of success for influencers, they need access to this data, so why not make them pay for it?

As an app that is completely integrated into almost every aspect of our everyday lives, is removing likes really going to benefit its users mental health or are we beginning to see a slow death for Instagram? The UK are yet to be introduced to the new initiative, but with it just being implemented in the US, we can’t be far behind.