Why is Instagram hiding your likes?

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Why is Instagram hiding your likes?


If you use Instagram you may have noticed a change this week the social media platform is conducting a test here in Canada hiding the number of likes on photos and articles so only the owner or the poster of the account will be able to see how many likes a post has received now Instagram CEO Adam Masari explained the reasoning behind the change saying we don't want Instagram to feel like a competition we want to make it a less pressurized environment ok so is this Canadian experiment good or bad for users of Instagram joining us to answer that question are three Instagram users and social media experts from Toronto is BuzzFeed social media editor alameen abdel mahmoud hello to you right and from Los Angeles is Ramona Pringle hello Ramona hi and she's the director of the transmedia Zone at Ryerson University and joining us from Vancouver technology expert

Graham Williams thank you to all three of you for being here with us thanks alright okay so el-amin I'm going to start with you I want to start also first with us all listening to a clip from the Instagram CEO earlier this week let's quickly take a listen and then I want you to weigh in I want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they're getting on Instagram it's been a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about okay I mean are they really going to spend more time connecting with the people they care about no I think I think that ship has kind of sailed a little bit you know mr. Koh has been around since 2011 it is the most popular platform of social media that there is out there and it's in large part due to this sort of comparing yourself in your life to other people's lives it's kind of a part of the Instagram culture at this point and so I'm afraid that introducing this this sort of experiment where you're not going to see the likes on other people's photos it's not gonna make you compare yourself to other people's lives a little bit less

I don't think so anyway I think all that will happen is we'll find different ways of finding validation for the feeling that you're just like not enough because that is what Instagram is ultimately built to do so Ramona I wanted to ask you too in terms of not being able to see that other people have liked the photo but as the user you can see how many you have so they're not removing the likes from you just from the other people who see it so will that not still have an impact on how you yourself feel if it is in fact the case that you seek validation by how many likes you have you know I absolutely anecdotally you hear stories about people who especially young people who rush and see how many likes there are on something that if there aren't enough likes they might even take it down it is this very immediate form of gratification or lack of response when that happens to be the case so the fact that you're still seeing how you sort of measure up because it's you know because we have this reality that we're comparing it to where you used to know how many likes things would have gotten before it feels like it's very much just a superficial it's the gloss it's the outside of what people can see but as a user you'll still see you'll still get that kind of gratification of who's liking your post it's maybe a little bit deep harder to dig into you have to go through a few more layers and the other interesting thing or piece of this that

I think is worth noting is that the algorithms are still counting those clicks and likes and views as well right so the analytics will still be available for those people who of course have made a livelihood off of their posts and how popular their posts are now grandma I wanted to ask you because is it something that maybe the social media platform had to do or felt compelled to do because for example there was a recent report from UK's Royal Society for public health that was talking about youth mental health there are some positives they say when it comes to feeling more connected but also linking it to things like anxiety depression loneliness and poor sleep quality but Ella means point is it too late now to put the genie back in the bottle to sort of address these issues Graham I don't think it is too late to address these issues at this point but I do think what's happening is that Facebook by way of Instagram is essentially conducting a psychological experimentation on its users this is really all about the dopamine response that people have when they're using

Instagram you you get that like you get that interaction you start to feel that connection with the content that you created now by removing the outward appearance of those numbers they made it a little bit more palatable to people to again just have that content stay there and you want to see as many people taking things down think it will remove some of the competitiveness there but I do think that this is actually a means to an end they are refining their process here what they have noted is that they don't have likes on stories right now that people can see outwardly it is actually more of a connection between the creator and their audience so I think they're trying to move more towards that direction it's interesting to see because at the same time on Facebook they've actually started to roll out things like awards and achievements that are attached to your profile which is a more visible sign of this so you're seeing them progress in two different ways here and like I said this really does feel like a psychological experiment and you know

I saw both Ramona and alameen sort of nodding with you and you said psychological experiments so yes it is it fair for these social media platforms to conduct these psychological experiments and how much of it is actually an experiment or is business based because after all these are huge money-making tools - so maybe Ramona I'll go to you and then el-amin it's such an important point that you know that this is a business and ultimately everything is serving the bottom line even when we're talking about this right now we're talking about it based on their announcement based on a press release so I think it's all it's always worth being a little bit a little bit skeptical taking it with a little bit of a grain of salt when we take these great announcements about why they're doing these things saying that they're maybe doing it for the well-being of their users for mental health because of anxiety issues you know the flipside of all of this is that we also talked about a lack of transparency if not knowing you know sort of what how the metrics are really being amalgamated or or counted talking about you know just how much these things can be boosted and bolstered there's so many issues that are facing

Facebook and Instagram at this stage and so they're sort of identifying one where they can have a hero moment where they do need to there's no doubt about it take some steps to do good in the eyes of their users but I think that there there's there's a lot that's going on behind the scenes with this as well yeah I mean I've listened I have to say with this particular case you you think about Instagram is a giant business and then you think what that business ever do anything to harm its usership to harm its you know the number of clicks that they get the number I balls of the draw and the answer is no they would wouldn't do this if they weren't quite sure that this is actually gonna result in more likes not not not fewer and I have to imagine also that at the end of all of this so come back and say like this was all about user well-being but I don't know I don't know if they'll release this data and make it public for us and I think that's what we need to know we need to know how are people interacting with this content I think there was there was a study out of the

UK that ended up I think the information office in the UK ended up recommending a 60 16 point plan and one of them was actually removing likes for all kids all children all people under 18 so you know you wouldn't be able to view and he likes whatsoever because the idea is like the like is a nudge technology it keeps you kind of coming back to the platform keeps you wanting to use it it keeps you interested in checking your own metrics so like if they were willing to you know take this sort of half-step why not go all the way and say yeah this is harming young people why not remove the like all together and I guess young people is sort of a relative term because you know in some cases we're talking about it having that impact on the mental health of youth but then you know there are young users of course who have adopted this and this is now their job they grew up with these sorts of social media platforms and so I'm wondering how damaging this will be to their livelihoods and maybe grandma I'll go to you on that I mean how are those people reacting well

I think this is actually the the biggest thing to be concerned about and what I did say psychological experiment this is probably the most worrisome thing when you do have young children who are growing up in this Instagram environment in the snapchat environment and really there is not a lot of expertise in this area it does feel like they are flying by the seat of their pants here you know I hesitate to use the artwork but it does feel like either regulation or oversight is needed with these companies because they don't actually know what they're doing and they are experimenting they're testing in production so it does make me a little bit fearful for the generations that are coming into this at a young age I just say use use the word regulation with gusto like lean into it because I think we're definitely at a point where that's needed and Ramona what do you think about you know the other side of the argument that those people who are counting their metrics and their analytics in order to pay the rent how damaging could this be to them do they have a case here to say you know

I really don't think Instagram is thinking about people like me in trying to test out this new removing like smooth well the thing about Instagram is you know not to go not to use Facebook's own language but it is just a platform it relies on content creators it relies on its users to create the content that generate the likes that generate the you know impressions that generate ad revenue and so I think really the the influencers have a lot more power in all of us than we're really seeing ultimately at the end of the day they will need to be happy because they're the ones who are generating content they're the ones who's their livelihood is also the the sort of it serves the platform well and so I think at the end of the day you know we talked about this a little bit earlier that this is a business and ultimately any decisions being made even if they can benefit people's mental health I think we'll also see them certainly not harming the business model but perhaps it's the most difficult business to regulate because how really do you keep control of how people are feeling about what reactions they're receiving online el-amin i mean the one thing you can do is ask people right like we haven't

I don't think we've done enough surveying and studying and studies of the consequences of social media of living this much in public in front of each other those studies that the ones that they've done that are large-scale enough they're just now starting to be published and we're starting to see pretty serious consequences from like constant social media use you mentioned earlier the depression and the anxiety that's like how many studies do we need is there you know is it like 30 40 50 a hundred there's several years of studying this and seeing the its impact affecting people in order for us to take action or are we saying yeah we're already seeing a trend line the trend line is is not good so we should take action now and final a word I want from you Graham do you think we'll see a pilot project like this also on Facebook I think we will see a pilot project like this on Facebook but I think it's going to go in the other direction I think Instagram and Facebook they're going to run these things in parallel and try to see which way is going to benefit their audience the most

I think the Facebook approach is probably not the correct one the Instagram approach is the one that I think is going to actually take off all right well thank you so much for this discussion and now I couldn't think of a better way to wrap this up than by taking an Instagram picture of all of you so say cheese guys team ready there we go all right thanks to our panelists thanks guys that was the mean Ramona and Graham thank you.
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