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Is Removing Likes Really
The Solution?

A little while ago I posted an image over on Instagram in the hopes of starting a discussion about their latest trial to improve the platform - hiding like counts. I had already seen a few posts about them rolling the trial out to select users across Canada and was so intrigued to see what the overall consensus would be. After all, our social media appears to revolve around the likes we give to each other and the likes we get from each other.

The likes, the hearts, the shares, the retweets - any form of engagement we receive on social media we seem to have equated with our success. Quite often it's not only our success that tentatively relies on the engagement we receive but also sadly our happiness and positive mindset too.

I've often wrote about how social media is what we make it and how the unfollow button can truly be your best friend. Simply unfollowing and removing the people/accounts that make you feel anything but happy/inspired/content and filling your timelines with the accounts and people that bring a smile to your face, can have a huge impact.

With that in mind, I for one am looking forward to seeing how the removal of likes will affect the platform, the influencer playing field and in turn our mental health.

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Myself and a lot of other content creators have relied heavily on social media and the idea that the more likes we garner means the more successful we are. One of the reasons I have continued to work on my blog when others have strayed from their sites, is because it's such a positive place for both myself and anyone who chooses to visit. No likes, no numbers, just content and discussions on topics that we're passionate about.

The content we post onto sites we don't own (instagram, reddit, twitter etc) we choose to upload at times we think people will see them, we hope to gain the most likes as possible and more so in recent times, it's uploaded in an attempt to 'beat' the algorithm we hear so much about. The sad truth is that around 18 months ago my mood and anxiety was so closely linked to my upload schedule, that if I felt the algorithm had cheated me out of the correct number of viewers, I felt truly awful. I felt exhausted, sad and like the hours spent on that one particular image or campaign was wasted. In reality before I uploaded I adored the image, loved what I had brought to life and couldn't wait to share it online - yet in minutes I was often disappointed with myself, all based upon the amount of likes I could see coming in. An impossible thing to 'win' at and in hindsight, a stupid amount of pressure to put on myself. 

Fast forward to Spring 2019 and after 4 years of working as a self employed 20-something, striving to make a name for myself with 16 hour days, I've stopped equating my own self worth with the amount of likes I get on Instagram. With a new outset on life in general, I'm growing as a person, growing as a creator and growing as part of this wonderful industry as I lessen the emphasis on the amount of likes I get. This industry is full of creative, innovative and spectacularly talented people who should be recognised for those traits alone, not the volume of double taps they get. And so, Instagram's decision to trial hidden likes has me wondering how this will affect us all. Yes we will see our back-end statistics such as total impressions, which are important for brands to see in the creator game, but we won't be privy to other people's likes on the platform if the trial is rolled out fully. Will we stop using other's progress to validate ourselves? Will we lessen the feeling of imposter syndrome as we continue in our careers? Will we stop holding our breaths every time we upload to the platform? And even more importantly - will we see a positive impact on ours and the next generations mental health?

I know that removing the number of likes on Instagram isn't a quick fix for our self worth but I'm incredibly hopeful that for the next generation, it will have a positive impact on their mental health. Growing up isn't easy and personally there was a lot I disliked about High School. I often felt like the odd one out, I felt bullied and I quite often, despite feeling fairly headstrong, felt pressured. I can't even imagine growing up as a teenager now, feeling all of those things but with the added impact of social media on top of it all to make you feel unnecessarily inadequate. Removing likes on the platform seems like it would make it a much kinder place to explore and I'm in agreement with so many others, that for younger people, it will hopefully stop them searching for approval through online platforms. I'm hopeful that both people who use Instagram as a personal photo book and those who use it as part of their career, can see a return to posting images because they love them, not just because they need to be liked. 

And if you are a young person reading this - please know that your likes on Instagram are absolutely not a measurement of you as a person. You are the unique and wonderful person you want to be, and don't let others pressure you to feel you should be anything else. At the end of the day, an Instagram like won't give you a bigger brain to study and reach your dream career. It won't make you more beautiful. It won't give you better manners or career prospects. So please don't feel any form of inadequacy if you don't reach the same number of 'likes' as the people around you. What the hell does it mean anyway?!

Images taken in Marrakech on a press trip with the wonderful Vita Liberata team.

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