Reportedly, Facebook-owned social media application Instagram recently testing a new version that hides the number of likes for others on the network in Canada. While the concept was mainly intended to widen the ideas of content creation rather than to focus on the number of likes one receives. However, this alone was not the only reason for Instagram to consider removing likes. Researchers found out that social comparisons on social networks may not work well for kids health on the platform, they might get distressed on comparing their lives to other users. Few research showed that time spent on the platform may impact self-esteem and mood among younger children.
The international interdisciplinary research organization Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development has called upon Instagram to stop users from the U.S. from seeing likes on their posts as well as on others. As either of these functions promote social competition and allure people to use the app more and more.
Children and Screens Founder Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra, D.O. said “The business of Instagram operates on a numbers game. Children and adolescents are being co-opted into participating by psychological persuasion techniques that are used in gambling. This experiment means that the leadership of Instagram is aware of the problem, and it is the first step that I hope will spur further change.”
However, the professor and associate dean at pace university shared different thoughts on the change. He said that “people are still going to see their own likes and as we all know about how much people are driven by awards so they will still compete for those likes. It’s not going to solve the problem completely.” This particular step is also not going to help in tackling the other issues such as social exclusion, addiction, fear of missing out, , and exposure to inappropriate content.
“This is such a complex issue,” said JAMA Pediatrics editor-in-chief Dimitri A. Christakis, M.D., M.P.H. “Instagram should have announced the issue when they found it and should have said to people that “We want your audiences to focus on the content you share not how many likes your posts gets.”
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Paul Weigle, M.D. explained: “Removing likes from the Instagram platform is an excellent move considering the mental health of the users as the studies have shown that people who engage in social comparison on social media generally develop depression.” Children generally check their posts 100 times a day out of an obsession for validation, which displaces other healthy activities such as getting adequate sleep, doing homework, and getting exercise.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Tracy Asamoah, M.D. said that “Social media is uniquely poised to impact in both the negative and positive ways as social media platforms are designed to provide you endless opportunities of identity development and social interactions in a place where feedbacks and instant responses are highly expected and obliged. This enriches content creators experiences of who they are becoming as they can interact with the people who follow and understand them.”
However, the negative comments from followers or getting no feedbacks at all may create a feeling of anxiety and distress among users. In addition to that, anticipatory anxiety may occur among users when the immediacy of feedbacks doesn’t reach their expectations. Instant feedback can create a sense of community among younger users; however, no response or the negative responses may shut that sense of community completely.
Likes are the key to Instagram’s platform and removing the function may have a major effect on users about how they see and engage with the platform but as the researches clearly show, how the “Likes” are having a negative impact on users mental health. As a result, the majority of health organizations believe that the decision is, and Instagram should permanently remove the “Like” button from its platform.