Podcast: The Detail

Teen anxiety and social media

The Detail today looks at the link between a seemingly innocuous move by Instagram, and anxious teenagers.

Instagram’s move to take the onus away from ‘likes’ is being dubbed a game changer by many who use the app, with users saying it takes away the pressure around posting content.

The app introduced a trial last week, in which users can no longer see how many likes other peoples’ photos have received.

Before the no-likes trial, Instagram was very much a numbers game. And like any good game, there are strategies you can apply to bolster your chances of success.

Successful use of the app is measured through likes and followers; how many people, be they friends, acquaintances, or strangers, give your photo a heart, and how many of them sign up to receive more of your content on their feed.

Posting certain kinds of photos (those featuring yourself are ideal) at certain times (in the evening or during peak commuting times, and especially Sunday evenings) can help you win at Instagram. One shouldn’t over-post, or post anything too blurry. Ideally, photos should also be considered for their overall contribution to the feed aesthetic, rather than as standalone images.

For many users, these strategies dictate how they use the app.

What that’s meant, however, is that Instagram hasn’t been used quite how its founders imagined.

People aren’t posting what they’re doing now. Instead, they’re posting carefully curated content which they think people will like (and not a like in the traditional sense, either, but a like defined by a double-click.)

Such developments have led to accusations that social media platforms are eroding the mental health of a generation, with anxiety and self esteem problems increasing amongst young people.

Possibly in part as a reponse to that, late last week, the social media giant quietly made a major change.

“On the surface, it’s not that big of a change visually,” explains Stuff reporter Brittney Deguara.

“Instagram’s wanting to remove the pressure of likes … so people can focus on the quality of content they’re sharing as opposed to whether this post will get me hundreds of likes.”

Deguara says the move will change how people use the platform, and is likely to flood the platform with more content.

As part of her reporting on the issue, Deguara spoke to several ‘influencers’ who make their income from the feed.

“The general consensus from the three influencers I spoke to [is that] they’re happy with the change.

“They know, as we know, the platform’s become this space where ‘likes’ dominate. This is changing the tune – this is focusing more on the relationship influencers can build with their followers.”

However, Deguara says there’s some apprehension from digital marketers, who fear it might just be a ploy to have users posting more often.

“There’s a concern growing that removing the public view of likes will force brands and other collaborators to focus on a more unreliable metric, which is followers.

“In the past, a general rule was… if you received 10 percent of your followers in likes, that was a good influencer to work with.

“Brands will have to rely on the metrics [influencers] provide them.”

Eden Thompson, a 19-year-old University student who uses Instagram, also welcomes the change.

“It kind of changes the platform because it means people can post what they want without getting nervous that it’s not going to gather enough likes,” she says.

So, if your Instagram feed starts to show less of peoples’ faces and more trees, cityscapes and morning commutes, the no-likes trial is likely working as hoped.

Want more from The Detail? Find past episodes here.

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