Undefined by likes

In a society where technology dictates how we communicate with one another, social media platforms like Instagram are essential parts of every teenager’s life. However, the way they track popularity has bred unhealthy competition among young, impressionable minds—comparing their followers and likes, primarily.

In an effort to shift focus toward content itself, Instagram is testing an update that hides like counts on its users’ posts, a change that will largely improve the platform.

Although the reception to this change has generally been positive, a group of people who are against the change still exists. The most prominent complaint comes from those using the site for  business. Influencers and models depend, in part, on like and view counts to get paid and sponsorships. Without them, owners believe that their business models will be ruined.

However, this is an exaggeration of the truth. Users can still view their own like counts, which they can share with potential advertisers. Additionally, follower counts will still be displayed on users’ accounts, so businesses and their customers can still determine influencers’ popularity. These changes allow businesses and models statistics to work with so that they know their posts’ reach.

The reason for this change, the mental health issues some users face, has been justified by many studies. One of these is a 2016 study oncluding that social media use “may facilitate and contribute to symptoms of mental illnesses.”

The head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, explained that removing like counts is intended to decrease competition on the site and allow users to focus on content. Though this is a step in the right direction, many mental health problems users face have more to do with feelings of being left out than with competition.

There is nothing Instagram can do to change this, as it is the nature of their platform, so their current changes are the best solution to this widespread problem.

There are other possible effects of the change, some of which reach beyond mental health and into the realm of mindfulness. The update will promote independent thought—it is human nature to want to agree with the majority, so by hiding like counts, users will be more free to create their own opinions on the content they see. This increase in thought makes using the app a more engaging experience in contrast to the mindless scrolling of many users.

People may also comment on their friends’ posts more often because likes are less relevant with this feature. Commenting encourages a sense of community among users who will connect on something more than a little heart icon.

Despite the naysayers, Instagram’s platform update responds aptly to support the wellbeing of its users. Although a change so large is unprecedented on social media, it may be the change our generation needs, whether we realize it now or not.