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Can Social Media Platforms Reverse The Psychological Effect Of Desiring To Collect Likes?

TSome of us who spend time browsing and posting on Instagram photo sharing service may have come across a pop-up message in recent days.

“You can now hide the number of ‘likes’ on people’s posts so that it’s easier to stay focused on what they are sharing,” it read. “You can also hide similar counts on your own posts. ”The obvious question: wWhy would we want to do such a thing?

After all, others, hearts, and thumbs up are the backbone of social media. They are a barometer of what’s popular and a convenient way to show or receive appreciation. But liking a social media post has all kinds of repercussions – emotional, economic, and psychological – that are only beginning to be understood.

Lots of research shows people enjoy receiving likes and are motivated to seek them out

For more than two years, Instagram and Facebook have conducted experiments to determine whether it would be better to hide likes from the platform completely. The recent change to Instagram would indicate that this might be a good idea – at least for some of us.

The analogue, in its various forms, has linked us closely to platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and even LinkedIn.

“The main purpose of these media is to engage people,” says Elaine Wallace, senior lecturer in marketing at the National University of Ireland Galway.

“A lot of research shows that people enjoy receiving likes and are motivated to seek them out. People go into all kinds of practices to get them, and it keeps them coming back. “

But the negative psychological effect of this desire to collect likes has been freely admitted for many years by Facebook and Instagram. In 2016, Kevin Systrom, then CEO of Instagram, said The Wall Street Journal: “We have to have a place where you feel free to post whatever you want without the nagging fear of, did anyone like it or not? ”

Similar functionality, regardless of social media platform, has become a competition for appreciation, popularity, attention, and in the case of influencers, ad revenue. This competition, perhaps inevitably, began to trigger anxiety and depression.

Tech journalist Karissa Bell noted in 2018 that it created an unhealthy addiction to be noticed and called for its ban.

“It helps spread fake news, deters meaningful conversations, encourages superficiality, and exacerbates the most psychologically damaging effects of social media,” she wrote.

Mental health activists have noted the negative impact on self-esteem, especially on desperate young people seeking validation in times of loneliness.

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Adam Mosseri, Instagram manager since 2018, said in interviews that “depressurizing” the platform was his priority. He said The New York Times: “We should have started to think more proactively about how Instagram and Facebook could be abused and how to mitigate those risks. We are catching up.”

Mosseri launched an internal project codenamed Daisy (“She loves me, she doesn’t love me”) to investigate the “like culture”, from which this new option to hide the number of likes has emerged.

You might assume it’s less likes and less attention that gets us down, but Wallace discovered that the polar opposite is also true. In a recent article, Hiding Instagram likes: effects on negative affect and loneliness, it offers proof that unexpected popularity can be even more toxic, especially if the extent of that popularity is visible to others.

“People who get huge likes aren’t doing them any good either,” she says. “There is clearly something wrong with people focusing on getting something that isn’t necessarily contributing to their well-being. “

She suggests that suddenly becoming popular can come with a different form of pressure, that of having to keep up with the kudos that have been given. In other words, we’re looking for an audience, but we’re not mentally prepared for it when it shows up. Wallace is concerned that most people will realize this and are still chasing likes without realizing that it could have a negative effect.

Can people focus a little more on their friends and a little less on the number of likes they are getting? I still like this notion

“There is a lot of research on this topic right now,” she says. “Understanding why people want likes versus what it does to them will be an ongoing question, but with technology as dynamic as it is, we really need answers now. “

Of course, there are a large number of people out there who seem to have no problem with the similar option – in fact, they rely on it to promote themselves and their careers. Strong reluctance from influencers and celebrities like Nicki Minaj may have prompted Instagram to make concealing likes optional rather than mandatory.

“Some people are thrilled about it,” Mosseri said, “some people are annoyed about it… but it seemed to be very lying.”

It had a curious effect, however: the concealment of likes, according to Facebook’s tests, seems to encourage us to post more things online. We become less concerned with the popularity of what we post, we refrain from self-censorship, and we speak more freely. It feels better from a mental health standpoint and, perhaps ironically, gives the platforms exactly what they want: more time spent using their services.

For her part, Mosseri always strives to make Instagram as non-toxic as possible for as many people as possible. “Can people focus a little more on their friends and a little less on the number of likes they’re getting? I still like that notion,” he says.

But even small changes on social media platforms can have a disproportionate effect on the way we think and behave; almost as if we were guinea pigs in an ongoing social experiment.

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