Opinion

Instagram tests new chilling feature, celebrities fume

By Charles Lotara

Facebook-owned social interaction platform Instagram is testing a new chilling feature that could see the disappearance of like count, and well, celebrities find the development somewhat stinky and unpleasant.

So far, the testing is being carried out in seven countries namely Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. Earlier this week, the change has been implemented in the United States, and it’s just a matter of time until users from other countries experience the same fate.

There’s a trick in this slight development however. Viewers will still be able to see how many likes their own photos or videos garner, but other users won’t be shown a figure – so you’ll know that your selfie from this week for instance, got more likes than one you might have previously uploaded.

A number of celebrities have already made superlative objections to the move. Female American singer and rapper Nicki Minaj hinted that she’d cease posting on Instagram should ‘likes’ get removed. Rapper Rico Nasty said in a tweet that the change could “kill” Instagram.

“I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m saying people value ‘likes’ so I’m sure they won’t be posting on there no more which means.. new app coming soon,” she said.

While follower counts and comments will still be publicly visible, Instagram re-redesigned the profile page to make follower counts less prominent.

 However, some celebrities are in favor of the change. Reality star Kim Kardashian West recently said taking away likes would be “beneficial” for people’s mental health.

Why is Instagram hiding the ‘likes’ feature?

A growing concern has been the mental health deficiency which the feature poses on average users, especially young people.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced Friday at Wired25 that if it means jeopardizing businesses to protect people’s mental health, the organization was up for it.

“We will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s well-being and health,” Mosseri said, according to Wired25.

In April, Mosseri told American newspaper BuzzFeed News that removing likes was “about creating a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”

A study by Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) shows that while the advent of social media and the internet presents great opportunities for innovation, learning and creativity, emerging evidence is raising concerns about the potential implications for young people’s mental health.

The research which places Instagram as the most pressurizing applications after Snapchat among the youths also reveals that social media in general are far more addictive that cigarettes.

At least one in every six young people is projected to experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives and identified rates of anxiety and depression in young people are alarmingly increasing.

The RSPH study also suggests that young people who are heavy users of social media – spending more than two hours per day on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are more likely to report poor mental health, including psychological distress.

“Seeing friends constantly on holiday or enjoying nights out can make young people feel they are missing out while others enjoy life. These feelings can promote a ‘compare and despair’ attitude in young people,” part of the research paper read. “Individuals may view heavily photoshoped – don’t hyphenate, edited or staged photographs and videos and compare them to their seemingly mundane lives,” it continued.

Instagram, a so-called socially interactive platform populated by celebrities and online influencers has turned into an arena where average users struggle to gain the attention of the world.

The platform gives more leverage to the famous, who are seen as the main subjects, over their followers who are often relegated to the position of spectators. Instagram has promoted such inequality by giving a blue check mark to accounts owned by famed individuals.

In 2018, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey equivocally hinted on removing the ‘like’ feature to incentivize healthy conversation, and told The Telegraph that the change was not taking effect soon after users fumed upon realizing the potential move.

Twitter, like Instagram, also gives famous account owners a blue badge to show the verification and authenticity of those accounts. This similarly creates a gap between the famous and the rest, who are fighting continuously to gain attention.

Unrealistic expectations set by social media may leave young people and average users with feelings of self-consciousness, low self-esteem and the pursuit of perfectionism which can manifest as anxiety disorders. Instagram seems to intervene to save young people from unnecessary that causes the aforementioned health syndromes.

Charles Lotara is a blogger, digital researcher, and self-taught web developer who’s also passionate about both positive and negative developments happening within the technological realm. Questions or comments? Reach him via charles@theinformant.co.zw, or follow him on Twitter @charles_lotara

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