No New Likes
Likes: the digital currency of today’s social media-driven cultural landscape. It seems like everything we do in the modern age is measured and valued by the number of likes. But how has that shaped the way we interact with the never-ending stream of content that pervades our screens? More importantly, how has that impacted the way we treat ourselves and each other?
Recently, Instagram announced that they’re testing a new, slightly controversial, feature on the Facebook-owned photo-and-video-sharing app. The number of likes on each post will be hidden from the public, presenting an opportunity for us, as a society, to drastically transform our behavior online. It’s more than likely that this change is Instagram’s attempt to address the mental health issues associated with the social media platform. With the increasing emphasis on likes as visible social currency, particularly as likes become monetized by large companies, it’s no surprise that users experience a form of anxiety to garner likes by perfectly curating their feed down to the painstakingly minute details. Although the visibility of likes has always been a pivotal feature of Instagram’s foundation since its OG days, its proposed invisibility could be a crucial step in a much-needed healthier direction.
Social media is one-dimensional. However, we tend to forget its curatorial nature and accept what we see as the whole truth. Whether we’re aware of it or not, the number of likes on a post has the power to influence how we perceive its content, as well as the associated user. Sometimes, we may like a photo simply because it has a six-digit number next to the tiny heart. And, on the other side of the coin, we may be discouraged from liking a photo because it only has 87 likes. Suddenly, we all become critics, determining the worth of someone’s image or video by an arbitrary number. The bombardment of content means there’s always something new around the corner, but it also means we focus less on understanding what’s already in front of us, in anticipation of what’s next. In other words, it’s like reading a book without really comprehending the story.
In my opinion, it gets even worse when it comes to our own content and self-image. In many cases, there’s a direct correlation between likes and level of self-esteem. When we spend a disproportionately large amount of time crafting this image for other people’s consumption, we’re at risk of neglecting our own health. The energy we spend obsessing over this superficial persona is energy taken away from self-reflection, self-love, and personal growth. How many likes you get doesn’t make you any better or worse than others nor is it an accurate representation of your value and worth in this world. Your Instagram likes should never, ever constitute a facet of your identity because you are more than a number. We are all multi-dimensional beings with greater, bigger stories to tell than social media can showcase.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I think Instagram is moving in the right direction by hiding likes. It’s definitely only a small step but I appreciate that they’re getting the ball rolling. But the initiative for healthier social media use is also up to us. We have to remember that Instagram itself isn’t inherently “bad”. Its superficial nature heavily stems from how we, as the users, interact with it. So, as Instagram tests this new feature (or rather its absence), we must also seize the opportunity to be more mindful and intentional with how we interact with social media.
Julia Eunji Choi