Dominique Kent/Staff Writer
The world is in panic mode. Some of it. The part not concerned with world peace and global warming. CNN reports that for some users in the United States, Instagram “likes” will no longer be visible to outside viewers. Basically, this means the only person privy to how many likes they have is the user themself.
On the surface, this is a great move that combats larger issues of self-esteem and popularity anxiety in young adult audiences. By constantly comparing themselves and their “likes” to professional Instagram models and celebrities, young adults are harming their mental health overall. This could change that. However, this trial could also mean bad things for the students who side-hustle as Instagram “influencers.” The positives outweigh the negatives, though. By a lot.
The United States is the eighth country to be included in the trial, which is part of an overall push by Facebook, the owner of Instagram, to make social media less toxic. Instagram will also remove dieting ads from the feeds of minors.
I’m on board with this. Up to 24 million people suffer from eating disorders in the U.S., and 90 percent of these cases are women between the ages of 12 and 25, according to bulimia.com. These numbers are concerning, and if changes to the way we use social media can help lower the risks, I think that’s unquestionably worth it.
Not everyone might share that opinion.
According to the Nov. 11 episode of the Need2Know podcast by cheddar on Apple Podcasts, “the response has been generally positive but influencers who count on the income from their sponsorship deals have said that the change will harm them.” Businesses go to influencers they know will have the biggest audience — with no way to tell how much attention a post is getting, it’s harder to judge exactly how big that audience is.
For one post, an influencer can charge between $50 and $50,000, according to Mic.com. As a starving student, I appreciate those numbers. As someone with very little skill when it comes to my own social media, I admire the people who master and use it. So I understand the panic some people may be feeling.
“To me, the numbers and science behind the algorithm are really complicated and I don’t think any of us as bloggers truly understand it,” said Victoria Kremer (@victoriagkremer), an FIU student who turned her Instagram account into a public business account in order to promote her personal blog.
As a psychology student with a focus on working with kids, Kremer seems to come from a place of concern, as well.
“As a psych student I am over the moon that likes are being hidden, I know a lot of younger kids are on Instagram these days, and it is not good for self-esteem to compare their likes to perfectly edited curated online personas,” she said. “I know my voice is being heard and my positive messages are being shared whether others, like it or not”
Overall, the trial is not only positive — it is also extremely necessary. This is overwhelmingly evidenced by a 2017 survey in the United Kingdom reported on by TIME magazine, where Instagram is ranked “the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing.” Instagram, as well as other types of social media, ranked poorly for sleep quality, bullying, body image and FOMO – particularly for young people, who were the main focus of the survey.
TIME reported on an even more shocking and concerning trend. Between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression and attempted suicides in young people have increased. In some cases, the rates have nearly doubled. Although it’s often difficult, or even impossible, to pinpoint exactly why this holds true, the one thing that has risen dramatically at the same time is the use of smartphones and social media.
The issues of poor self-confidence, depression and other negative effects of social media are much more pressing than potential lost income, no matter how painful that sounds to starving college students.
Featured photo from FIU Flickr.
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