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Should Instagram get rid of the likes?

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Rae witte

July 25, 2019 12:14 pm ET


TOYING WITH Emotions are nothing new for social media giants: in 2015


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Let users react with "laugh" and "anger" emojis to posts, instead of relying solely on their iconic Thumbs-Up. That same year,


He changed the star that marked "Favorites" for a sentimental heart.

Now, through a series of tests that begin in Canada and expand to six more countries, including lands loaded with influences such as Japan and Australia, Instagram is considering the idea of ​​removing the amount of similar accounts from the public view.

It seems to be for a good cause. A March 2019 study published by the American Psychological Association showed increases in depression and anxiety and lowered self-esteem for those born after 1995 that may be linked, in part, to social media platforms. According to the survey, these problems were markedly exacerbated from 2011, one year after the launch of Instagram for photos.

"The comparison of their successes, lifestyle and physical appearance happens easily in this application due to the exchange of visual photos," said Liz Beecroft, a New York psychotherapist who also creates content for Instagram with the intention of inspiring more than 12,000 followers. . "Adding likes to the mix can increase the need to compare," he added, leaving people without support or creativity when they don't see a certain number of likes in a post.

An Instagram spokesman said that in their tests, the goal of eliminating "likes" is to help "followers focus on the photos and videos they share, not the amount of" likes. "The company believes that by allowing only users to see their own tastes, the pressure to perform will finally decrease. Then, users can "tell their story" more freely instead of trying to compete among others with outstanding lifestyle reels taken from flattering angles and anxiously observe their tastes publicly (or not).

The supposedly compassionate Instagram plan "will allow users to be blind to these superficial metrics," said Ms. Beecroft. A more insensitive point of view, by Ronn Torossian, an expert in crisis communications, suggests that the strategy aims to weaken the market of influential people who have achieved a "free trip" by profitably exploiting Instagram as a marketing tool.

When contacted for comment, Instagram said that in these exploratory stages it was still "thinking of ways creators can communicate value to their partners."

There are innumerable factors that influence the number of eyes to which the Instagram algorithm exposes your image, including the timeliness of your publication and the probability that other users are interested in content based on previous habits. The smartest strategies of Instagrammers would still be relevant in a post-like world. Therefore, it is possible that the elimination of those hearts simply restores the original rationale of the application: sharing filtered shots of the most mundane moments of life.

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Do not

A & # 39; LIKE & # 39; HAVE Value beyond its function as a blow of digital ego. Yes, people use social networks to explore the lives of others, from friends and family to role models and strangers, but they often seek a better life. Users can find tasty recipes, become more intelligently obsessed with hobbies, take note of trends or plan increasingly ambitious trips. Every "like" helps Instagram and its community determine the quality of a publication, and often the most photogenic cream reaches the top.

Instagram depends on your community to run the platform, so you probably could not remove the "likes" without driving users away. "It's fun to see what other people liked and a good way to discover new things," said Amrit Sidhu, co-founder of One Stop Away, a creative agency that focuses on the promotion and inclusion of women.

However, even removing "likes" from public view, and at the same time allowing users to double-touch each image they adore, may not significantly improve mental health in the way the application is supposedly intended. Users could still pass photos of past aspirations that make them feel shy, the algorithm would still cough photos of an ex hugging someone new, they will still face cyberbullying and probably spend as much time on it as they do now, all of which, As studies show, it plays an important role in the way Instagram affects the mental health of its users. And, of course, Instagrammers will still be able to see their own "likes" even if others can't, so they could easily get discouraged when a post doesn't connect with their followers.

"I don't think this initiative is a genuine movement to improve mental health, that argument is like hitting Band-Aid in a gunshot wound," said Ms. Sidhu, who has more than 40,000 followers on the social platform. "We need to focus on the lack of access to mental health resources and support in this country and address the root of why we are all so affected by tastes and numbers rather than simply eliminating them."

Instead, Ms. Sidhu argued that eliminating the "likes" might affect those who use the business app more, especially the influencers with whom many of us have a love / hate relationship and the brands that hire them. . Instagram said there is no truth in the claim that eliminating likes is intended to push brands to pay for sponsored publications. But without the "likes" of the public, brands will have a hard time determining how well they can align their products with a specific demonstration and, eventually, brands may have to pay and pay Instagram for official ads.

Probably, Instagram could help users who fight against the effects of social networks on mental health in many ways, such as allowing only dog ​​content. But removing the heart from the platform is not worth anything.

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HYPE BEASTS / Five films and programs that dramatize the effects of social media obsession


A24 / Everett Collection

& # 39; Eighth grade & # 39;

On YouTube, Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is a fun and confident teenager with a slogan: "Gucci!" In real life, she is a lonely clumsy and obsessed with the phone who is struggling to adapt during the last week of high school, and, to her anguish, has just been voted "quieter" by her classmates.


Neon / Everett Collection

"Ingrid goes west"

Who influences the influencers? After being captivated with a popular Instagrammer (Elizabeth Olsen), the unstable Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) stalks her across the country, kidnaps her dog, invades her life and strives to become her best friend on social media.



& # 39; Vertical Chopping & # 39;

In the technological dystopia of this episode of "Black Mirror," the social status is determined by the way friends and strangers rate interactions with you. With the aim of reaching 4.5 and winning the life of his dreams, Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) melts spectacularly on his way to a popular friend's wedding.


Columbia Pictures / Everett Collection

& # 39; The social network & # 39;

If you have to believe in the dark and comic masterpiece of director David Fincher on the foundation of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg never wanted to be rich, he just wanted to be loved. That doesn't work exactly for the child's genius, who loses his best friend while depositing billions.



& # 39; Fyre Fraud & # 39;

Hulu's document details the infamous Fyre Festival of 2017, a paradise of digital influencers sold by executive scammer Billy McFarland as the most exclusive party in history. When thousands of Instagram guests arrived, they found only worthless tents and homemade cheese sandwiches.

Corrections and Amplifications

An earlier version of this article incorrectly contained a still image of Netflix's "Fyre" documentary. The photo has been replaced by a still image of the documentary "Fyre Fraud" by Hulu (07/25/2019)

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Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/should-instagram-get-rid-of-likes-11564071289

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