This week, the social media platform Instagram will begin to hide the “like” feature. Facebook initially introduced likes on February 9, 2009 in order to promote easy interaction between friends, family and business associates. It may have started with innocent intentions, but the like feature quickly grew into a controversial factor in the social media community.
Since the 2010’s, numerous studies executed by renowned experts have linked the like button to deteriorating mental health. Adults and teenagers alike seek validation from a simple like, and therefore, begin their obsession with perfecting their Instagram posts. The like button also hinders interpersonal communication and weakens relationships between friends and family members. Due to these factors, physiologists and mental health advocates support the removal of the like button.
But there are two sides to every story. For many social media influencers, Instagram is a source of income. Influencers and celebrities make thousands of dollars per post through endorsing products, and the number on their paycheck is garnered by their outreach — the more likes there are, the more money they get.
Influencers and creators also post creative content for their fans and may depend on the number of likes they get to pave the way for future projects. For example, if a content creator posted something about their latest project, and the post didn’t receive as many likes, they would know to go in a different direction for future projects.
For most teenagers, the number of likes they receive on a posted picture is unimportant; rather, the focus is on the people liking it. Teenagers have a tendency to pay attention when the subject interests them, so there’s a higher probability they look through their likes to see if their crush liked their post rather than the likes in total.
Although it is in the initial stages of testing, Instagram’s step to hide the like feature is a bold one. Executives understood the criticism that would follow the announcement but chose to take this step to help the fight against mental health issues.