If you’re in the social media universe, you’ve most definitely heard about Instagram’s latest and greatest change. “Likes” are a thing of the past, and upon some reflection, I think it’s for the best.
When the functionality changed on my account, I was initially thrilled. We’re all on an equal playing field now! The music-festival-going, flower-crown-wearing influencers will gnash their teeth in sorrow! There is one less societal pressure in the world!
And then I noticed something: as I went through my daily social routines, I found myself looking for them. I would glance at a photo, and my eyes would immediately zero in on what the like count tallied up to. Of course, they weren’t there. My stomach turned as I realized that I absolutely and unconsciously place merit on people based on their Instagram popularity, whether I mean to or not. Whoops.
I got my Facebook account up and running at the age of 15 as I entered high school (MySpace was SO out in 2007). Social media has been a part of my life for over a decade, and there are generations shortly behind me that will interact with it from an even younger age. I faintly remember forming opinions of others before social media was a factor… but now we label everyone based on those standards, and worse, compare them to ourselves. Or, we make money off of them. In a November article from The Guardian, one artist states,
“Instagram allowed me to reach a whole new section of people who don’t normally get to see art. Likes are a good metric to prove your art is high quality – that there is a validation of your ideas and content.”
Does the validation of our passions or livelihood really boil down to performance on a platform where people post cat videos and memes? Sadly, I think it does, although my inner art historian is jumping off of a cliff. At a time when social media is so intertwined with mental health, I think we could all use a reason to reprioritize and reset. When asked about the change to the platform, Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri, stated that, “the idea is to try to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love and things that inspire them.” That doesn’t sound so bad to me.
Imagine this: a social media world with no public likes at all. A world in which you can’t see how many followers someone has. A world where you pay attention to content more than you pay attention to a tiny number underneath it. If the disappearances of likes leads to a more meaningful and healthier social media experience, I’m all for it.