In a world before the number of double taps on a post was the definition of self-confidence, before the number of digits under a picture labeled its worth, life was simpler.
Before you felt the need to google “best time to post on a Wednesday” prior to deciding when to post, Instagram, and other social media apps like it, was a place for expression, exploration, and individuality. Now, with their latest update that removes the public display of likes, the site strives to return to a more realistic and safer state.
While other countries have been noting the disappearance of likes since early 2018, the update has only just recently been spotted in the U.S. With the change, users will still be able to view the number of likes on their own posts, but when examining other people’s posts, they will simply say “and others” in replacement. According to Twitter, Adam Mosseri (CEO of Instagram) aims to “make Instagram the safest place on the internet,” and states that the main idea is to “depressurize” the site.
Other apps, such as VSCO, have been taking this into consideration for years. Their format, one that remains more centered around content rather than creator, hides not only likes (or, in their case, republishes and favorites), but follower counts as well. For many, including myself, this more laid-back method of publicity takes immense pressure off of users, allowing for more frequent, less thought-out, and, therefore, more original and raw posts.
Personally, I have always preferred apps that choose to stray away from the “instant gratification” of virtual approval from others. In some ways, this feeling resembles that of an addiction. When posting something online, there’s a sort of “rush” that accompanies the instantaneous likes, comments, and other sources of self-proclaimed “confidence boosters” that follow. For me, the ability to post whatever you want as often as you want creates a more accurate depiction of the user, as opposed to an account filled with posed, carefully thought out and planned pictures.
So, Instagram making such a large step in a more positive and authentic direction sparks immense hope within me. I have witnessed too many young people, myself included, post something they thought was absolutely amazing, that they thought captured their true selves, only to delete it moments later after not getting “the right amount of likes.” “I’ll post it again later,” is the sentence that trails after. Post it again later for who? Why? Is there really such a complex algorithm written within social media that impacts the number of likes in just one hour of time?
The removal of public likes will push those who can’t, or won’t, detach their self worth from their social media accounts to realize that their true value lies in the real world, not some fake portrayal of the best parts of people’s lives. Some people, though, are already choosing to take a step further in this direction. Lucy Swedburg and Zoe Turner, seniors at Grand Rapids Christian, have taken their own measures to make the site more relaxed. “Start of my attempt to care less about what people think about my Instagram…Thank you for inspiring me Lucia,” Zoe said under a picture of her car keys, which she claims she “likes very much.” Similarly, Lucy’s most recent post contains the caption “From now on I post what I want to post! And when I want to post it!” and includes the hashtag #makeinstagramcasualagain.
This more personal step towards placing a bigger focus on mental health and a smaller focus on “influencer culture” in contingency with Instagram’s own update is the change we’ve all been waiting for. While we were busy centering our attention on the reactions of other online users, we missed out on the opportunity to create something—a page, picture, theme, etc—that is authentically us.
While this update may seem like a step backwards, in reality, it is a momentous leap forward towards a culture of sharing, and not caring.