2019, the year that cycling shorts became more than a comfortable cycling look, the year Jeremy Kyle got axed and the year that Instagram made Instagram a healthier and happier place for it’s users. But will it do this? Discuss.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a generation where social media wasn’t a thing, I wasn’t allowed MSN and I certainly wasn’t allowed Facebook until I’d reached the 13 year age mark, I know, what a rotten childhood. No, actually. It was a simpler time, I didn’t grow up with Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter. I grew up with Polly Pocket, Totally Spies and playing teachers with a whiteboard, despite never utilising that ability in my adult years. It was a time, where if you had beef with a person it was in person, it wasn’t indirectly spoken on social media or sent to you on a vile message. In fact, bullying, I still endured through out my childhood but unlike my younger peers, I didn’t have to contend with the bullies sliding into my DM’s or feeds. Instead, I left them in science class, the playground and tutor-group whereas our generation of 2019 will take the bullies back to their bedrooms, their living rooms and the way home next to their parent or guardian. It’s no surprise that in this day and age, yes 2019, we live in a generation where we live within a mental health epidemic. Bullying, isn’t the only outcome of social media, it’s the self confidence of our young people that is also the outcome. If we combine these two together, we equal the opposite to which social media intends to do; so with this in mind it’s no surprise that 2019, is the year that Instagram trialed a test whereby it would hide the amount of likes you have on a photo to other users. The experiment is currently being tested in other places bar the UK; with the team from Instagram claiming that it will remove the pressure from number of likes and focus on a community of image sharing. From a user of Instagram and other social media platforms, i’ve had this conversation with multiple people and all of us had the same conversation, ‘oh how many likes did it get?’ not as bitchy girly talk but as a validation of whether we looked killer. The quantity of likes, is a sort of validation of looking the part; when an image gets fewer likes than a previous image- there is a strange feeling of unpopularity & inadequacy because the other girl on Insta uploaded at the same time and some how sits on 200 likes rather than your petty 12 likes. Is this the new world we live in? We live in a world, that we only feel mentally ok with our body image if the image we posted on socials was a worthwhile image. Let me ask you the question, readers under 25, how many images have you deleted because it didn’t get a number of likes you thought it’d get? I guarantee, that you’ve all done it, because I know I have. We wait for our followers to validate our presence and if they validate it,the way we want them to, then we feel ok. If, they do not engage with the image, some how it falls back on us and we suddenly feel like pants.
“We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love,” Mia Garlick, Facebook Australia and New Zealand director of policy, said in a statement.
The goal, she adds, is that users feel less judged and to see “whether this change can help people focus less on likes and more on telling their story”.
Instagram testing this theory does suggest that their team are aware of the negative outcome it has had on some of it’s users yet will it make Instagram this rose tinted world it’s PR team want you to believe it’ll be? I’m not so sure. It’s aware that, others seeing the quantity of likes we have, is damaging our self esteem but that’s not the end. This won’t be the last time someone commits suicide, enters recovery from mental illness or seeks therapy as a result of a negative experience from social media. You know why? The likes, are the not the only damaging aspect of the deadly 10pm scroll. It’s the comparison of others, it’s the finding yourself looking at your exes new birds’ Instagram and seeing yourself as inadequate and worthless, because they’re on holiday, in a bikini with a size 6 bod. Whilst, you sit there a size 8 borderline 10, watching Big Little Lies with a box of chocolates. This is something that Instagram and the other bodies behind the scenes of our beloved social media apps will never fix, why? Because, we have taught ourselves to compare against the person on our scroll, we’ve taught ourselves there is an ideology in which we must match ourselves up against and you know what else? We’ve taught ourselves, that because that girl has 200 likes and she looks amazing- that is somewhat the ideal image, the ideal look and personality we all must aspire to be. It’s not just our friends that we’re comparing ourselves too. It’s the Kings and Queens of Instagram. It’s the Instagram influencers. It’s the men and women, who make money from creating beautiful content that makes us aspire to be like that; whether it’s a great gym shot, a dinner scene or just a killer outfit. These images, have been curated in the same way that imagery on print magazines have been air brushed to an inch of their megapixel. We’ve essentially, been fed ideals, first as consumers of print, then now as young adults on social media by ‘normal’ people’ who in fact are not normal. I love reading the content of some of my favourite bloggers, but I cannot be them. We can’t afford Chanel, we can’t afford Bentley or even to go on last minute trips to Paris for the weekend staying on a balcony on the door step of the Eiffel Tower. Social media has fed this to us, social media has fed us content through it’s algorithm that this is normal and our mindsets have taught us that this is normal and something to aspire to; And, if we can’t get there, then we deem ourselves inadequate. This is why Instagram making your likes invisible to your followers will not make Instagram this rose tinted place of happiness, it’s PR team want you to believe. Yes, it deals with part of the issue but we can’t scapegoat Instagram for an issue that we’ve imbedded into our shallow and image obsessed culture. We need to take responsibility for our scrolls and recognise these unhealthy habits of comparing ourselves to unattainable images and norms before we look to blame the app. Instagram, I salute you for your step in the direction.