How does the removal of Instagram likes affect the future of influencers?

Image Source: Business Insider

By Meika Bottrill | @meikabottrill

Last week Instagram announced their decision to trial a new update that makes the total number of likes on a post invisible to the public eye.

“[This prototype] is about creating a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves,” Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, told Buzzfeed News.

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Image Source: The Daily Hive

In a society that deems social media an economy and the number of likes our currency; you can understand why influencers whose primary platform is Instagram, are raising concerns.

However, the idea behind this prototype is understandable when you factor in the consequences social media has had on many individual’s confidence and self-esteem.
It’s a social media age-old tale, you take a photo, you add a filter, you post it, and you wait.

And suddenly greed takes over.

You begin vigorously refreshing your feed, checking how many of your friends are active and staring at a number, waiting for it to increase in order to validate your worthiness as a person.

With the ability to post filtered and edited photos that distort reality, it is evident that social media plays a significant role in the rise of body image issues.

This obsession to gain likes and approval from your followers is consequential to a younger and more influenced demographic: the demographic that Instagram primarily reaches.

In March 2019 according to a report by Napolean Cat, 32% of Instagram users were between the ages of 13 – 24 years old.

In the same year, Butterfly Foundation reports that Australian youth have identified body image as one of their top three concerns regarding mental health.

Due to their younger audience it is fundamental for Instagram to monitor the behaviour of users and alter platform prototypes in order to create an online environment that is more positive for teenagers or young adults.

Today, a photo posted on Instagram is almost guaranteed to be an unrealistic portrayal of one’s life however the nature of Instagram feeds has progressively changed over the nine years of its existence.

Nine years ago our posts were less deliberated, less intentional and more creative.
Now Instagram is trying to get back to their roots.

“We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about,” said Mr Mosseri.

The largest transformation that we have seen on our Instagram feeds, however, is the introduction of the social media influencer.
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Image Source: Shanni Grimmond Instagram @shannigrimmond

A social media influencer such as Shani Grimmond (pictured above) makes a living by posting appealing, attractive and curated images in order to promote brands, businesses and campaigns to the public.

Businesses choose Instagram influencers that reach a large and diverse public to promote their products and this metric is measured by the number of likes a post gains.

Instagram likes play an immense role in the development of trends, fashion, business and marketing models.

It is important to note, however, that Instagram likes may not always be an authentic reflection of user engagement.

There are numerous second-party applications that allow users to purchase likes or followers and there is nothing that stops a user to make different accounts to increase their own number of likes.

However, removing likes may force influencers to become more creative.

The release of Instagram stories in 2016: an in-app feature that allows users to post videos or photos for 24 hours does not allow other users to access view counts.

This feature has proved to be one of the most effective ways that influencers promote products because there is less pressure for someone to post glossy or highly edited content.

This demonstrates that Instagram users may actually prefer content that is relatable and authentic.

Regardless, it is evident that marketing and the business of social media influencers have a lot to lose if this trial is proved successful.

A question that still remains asks what does our society value more: the self-esteem of our future generation or the ability to make money through the exploitation of social media influencers?.

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