Why Instagram Hiding “Likes” Is A Necessary But Almost Too Late Gesture
Social media platforms have held a steady grip on our consciousness for over a decade, which is more than enough time for users to decide the consequences of uninterrupted engagement.
Facebook was the first foray into the unknown that lasted for about six years before the charm was replaced with a bitterness that raised the antlers of suspicion as it pertains to the authenticity of being social with “friends” that eventually blend into the landscape of blurriness.
It was incredibly empowering to possess the ability of effortlessly reviving connections that had gathered dust from the limitations that made it impossible to keep in touch with contacts situated abroad.
Once those challenges were replaced with the purposed clicks that led to the vibrant scrapbooks that detailed the missing years up to the present, that was when the magic was supposed to begin. But there was the gradual realization of how fighting for attention based on the weaponry of glaring popularity can reduce users to slaves of a systemic virus that turns “friends” into an army of strangers.
The over-crowded field of attention seekers became a suffocating game that left me feeling out of my element and disheartened by the discovery of how those connections weren’t as real as they seem when you log in and embrace the notifications that provide the maddening reminders of potential contenders for “friendships.”
After shutting down my Facebook page, which proved to be trickier than I initially imagined, the immediate sigh of relief left me feeling much lighter and happier. It was like regaining control of what I didn’t know I needed until it was taken away. And of course, most of the ‘friends” that I engaged with aren’t visible in the ways that matter.
But it wouldn’t be fair to relieve myself of any of the blame since I could’ve made the attempt to reach out via email or mobile, but clearly that desire to maintain those connections is really embedded in the new normal of posting updates for revelers and maybe hosting direct messages on those occasions that warrant the privacy.
The point is that social media was a supremely welcomed life-changer with tons of benefits that for this Gen-Xer comes in the form of networking. As a twenty-something who struggled through the era when working in media was reserved for Ivy Leaguers or anointed hustlers who were at the right place at the right time, being able to post links to my articles on Twitter and garner swift responses from editors has been a dream come true.
And we can’t discount the mighty power of activism on platforms that are built for the ground-swell of like-minded influencers who can fight on behalf of a young Black mother and her baby son, after a harrowing ordeal at a welfare office in Brooklyn that threatened their lives. The sounding of the alarm can be difficult to ignore for those who are in the position to change things around.
But the disadvantages of existing according to the temperature of “likes” and the “hearts” that light up to keep your status healthy can have a tremendous effect on the emotional wellbeing of those who are easily coerced by what they try to control with aggressive allegiance to profitable hashtags.
As much as we envy the younger generation for the blessing of growing up during a period of advanced technology that has gifted them with the capabilities to consistently surpass expectations, and excel to heights beyond wildest dreams, we can’t deny the immense pressure that comes from being acutely aware of what it means when not enough people “like” you.
Take for instance the rising influentials of Gen Z who are dazzling the entertainment industry and proving their bankability as social media stars. It’s hard to fathom what it must be like to be on the cusp of stardom at an age when your faculties aren’t composed enough to handle the highs and lows of such a demanding lifestyle.
That’s the fascinating topic captured by filmmaker Liza Mandelup in her documentary Jawline, that premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and is currently accessible on Hulu. The bluntly delivered offering captures the adventures of a bunch of teenagers who have social media stars based on the fame recruited from the popular streaming app, YouNow.
Viewers are directed to the trajectory of sixteen-year-old Austyn Tester, who is managed by a young and ambitious hustler, who uses the dependably superficial tactics of dangling the temptations of LA’s sprawling playground, including the whitened sidewalks of Rodeo Drive as the imagery that’s meant to keep his impressionable clients ravenously motivated.
But the gut-wrenching aspects of Jawline is revealed in the unevenness of a lifestyle that’s based solely on the ability to maintain the momentum garnered from the fandom that arrives from screaming teenage girls who gather for autographs and hugs at the scheduled events across the country.
Austyn seems to be having a blast with other comrades who are on his level of fame and others who’ve graduated to the levels that he hopes to replicate. But it soon becomes clear that he’s not well-versed on the mechanics of what he signed up for, and even worse is the sobering truth of how fast you can topple down from the pedestal, which usually requires starting all over again if too much time has passed since those record-breaking numbers yielded that peak of extraordinariness.
I have personally witnessed the debilitating effects of platforms that were constructed to torment with the numeric proof of how “unliked” you are when the numbers don’t add up in your favor.
A good friend of mine and the father of her fifteen-year-old daughter at the time, were blindsided by the emotional setback that threatened their child’s disposition after a frightening ordeal that played out online and ended up being a disgusting prank that was orchestrated by someone she trusted.
The truth is that the inventors of these apps weren’t completely in the dark when it came to weighing the pros and cons, and how unregulated exposure could exact serious harm to youngsters, who have all the time in the world to get sucked into the vortex of social dysfunction that they’re certainly not mature enough to navigate when you consider how adults barely stay afloat.
The statistics don’t lie, and the damning results might have inspired Instagram’s recent experiment that rolled out earlier this summer in targeted markets, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and Canada.
The Facebook-owned company decided to try out the process of hiding the number of likes from followers, who can click and view who liked your posts, but won’t be able to automatically see the impressive numbers. So for those who are curious, the only way to find out is to count the growing list of names.
Users will obviously have access to the information of how “liked” they are by the public without having to pathetically count those names, and of course if you’re part of my tier, it won’t really matter that much since engagement is modest at best, and you can basically scan our posts and calculate our worth in seconds.
But for budding and seasoned influencers, who are wedded to the notion of how those eye-popping digits have assisted in the elevation of statuses from profitable brand sponsorships and highly-paid gigs that are awarded to the elite of social media, this proposed method of engagement will undoubtedly force major revisions.
Experts who study and work in the influencer market have predicted that Instagram’s proposal will help to eliminate lucky slackers who weaponize their numbers to harass upscale brands in hospitality, beauty and fashion for unearned privileges. The goal is to encourage the superior quality of output from successful and competitive influencers that will prove why the system of “hidden likes,” ultimately leads to passionate pursuits that aren’t negated by towering popularity.
Only time will tell if this grand gesture to save the us from societal disillusionment and entrapment will have the opportunity to revert users back to the basics.
It seems a little too late to unleash the wave of consciousness that comes from the guilt of waiting until the worst case scenario occurs with influencers taking unimaginable risks that end up killing them, all for the thrill of keeping millions of followers enthralled enough to keep coming back for more.
The damage has been done, and while the impending edits are necessary, it would’ve been nice if it has been enforced on that very first day.