Proceeding studies that have shown the effects social media has on mental health, Instagram has hidden the “like” feature in seven countries, which is a much needed change working towards cutting down the pressure and stress that accompanies the app.

Social Media and Mental Health

Social Media, from Facebook to Instagram, undoubtedly plays a major role in its users lives. The most popular social media platforms are Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, all of which are used extensively by teens and young adults. Although social media brings countless benefits to the table, including enabling wide spread communication, providing an instant platform to spread creativity, and increasing connections, social media has proven to be a major threat to its users’ mental health. Social media brings forward a constant flood of unrealistic ideals, whether that be related to body image, life style, achievements, and more. The constant pressure to live up to these ideals can lead to incredible amounts of stress, self-doubt, and insecurity. The platforms also tend to go hand in hand with social isolation. A study focused on social media use and social isolation, concluding that users who visited any form of social media more than 58 times a week were three times more likely to report feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Instagram’s Test

Instagram announced a major change to their application back in April, in which the “like” feature would no longer be visible for users in Canada. Within three months, Instagram expanded its test to six more countries: Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. Mark Zuckerberg explains, “as you scroll through your feed, there are no like counts… you can see who liked a photo or video, you can tap through to see, and if you have the time you can add them all up yourself”. Instagram has said that the goal of the test is to encourage users to focus on the quality and meaning of posts rather than the amount of likes received on them. Not only will this test affect the nature of the app, but it will hopefully decrease the levels of stress and pressure that tend to accompany the platform as well.

The Reaction

Just like any major change, Instagram’s test was originally met with a fair amount of controversy and uncertainty. However, after a few months, users seem to be more accepting and even encouraging of the change to the application. One user, Matt Dusenbury, explains, “Without seeing the likes count on feed posts now, I find myself more clearly focused on the actual quality of the content being posted”, which was the original goal Instagram had when deciding to hide the “like” feature. Emily Hall, another Instagram user, admits that she isn’t as “obsessed with the number of likes [she’d] received” as before, suggesting that this change may be beneficial for the mental health of “Instagrammers”. The combination of the public’s positive reaction and Instagram’s recent decision to expand the test to six more countries leads many to believe that the test is going well and may have the potential to become a permanent change.

Pressure Remains

According to a The Guardian article, “the culture of validation is too deeply entrenched to be killed off”, meaning that no matter what changes are made to Instagram, the damage has been done. Social media users are living in a society in which quantified data is the strongest form of validation out there, and even with the elimination of the like feature, users will most likely find a different way to gain affirmation on the app. Whether this be in comments, followers, shares, or mentions, little can be done to make up for the irreversible damage Instagram and other social media platforms have caused in teens and young adults.

Steps You Can Take

Change or no change on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, or any form of social media, users still have the power to give social media less control of their lives. Taking the time to set a daily limit on social media usage, turning off notifications, unfollowing accounts that prompt unrealistic expectations, and engaging/disengaging at smart times are all effective ways in making a users “social media experience” more fun and healthy.

[Image Attribute: Webster2703]