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What has happened?

Earlier this week, Instagram revealed a new test that if used correctly will completely change Social Media for good. It is no secret that Social Media has had a huge impact on our lives for many years now but many people are starting to wonder whether this is such a good thing. In the past 5 years, depression and anxiety levels have risen by almost 20% and is shown to mainly affect teenagers, which uncoincidentally are the majority of Instagram’s user base. Research now shows that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year! That is a horrifying statistic and it seems Social Media is the main cause for this, Instagram has picked up on this and have begun to make massive changes to their platform to try and reduce anxiety and depression when users are on Instagram.

The new test is the removal of likes on Instagram posts and is set to be trialled in Canada this week, this will mean that users will no longer be able to see how many likes other people have got on their posts, they will only see their own. Instagram has done this in the hope that users will stop basing their self-worth on how many they likes they get on Instagram and therefore reduce anxiety when using the platform. Not only will this help users mental health, it will also stop third-party companies offering services where users can buy likes and comments because there will simply be no need.

Do you think Social Media is the leading cause for the growth in mental health problems?

How will this work?

Since most social media platforms use the “Likes” format on their apps, it will be interesting to see if Instagram are able to maintain a functioning yet still fun app for their users due to the “Likes” format playing a big role in the algorithm of Instagram, they will need to change a lot of features. The question is, will this be detrimental to their app or will it encourage other platforms to follow suit?

The way that Instagram looks will not change for users during the test, the only thing different is that they will no longer see a number of likes it will just say “liked by others”. However, Instagram will not be removing likes completely from their platform, they have announced that the creator will still be able to see how many likes they have gotten on their posts but the way they can find this information will change. This is because Instagram tells you straight away how many likes you have on your post and therefore users are believing this is in an important factor which is proven to have negative effects on their mental health, the change will aim to stop this and only show users their likes if they want that information.

Will these changes result in Instagram becoming less active?

An example of Instagram’s new format.

Are there going to be any other new features coming?

In this attempt to fight back against mental health problems, Instagram is reportedly also looking at tackling Cyber Bullying on their very popular platform. Due to the outstanding 1 billion users on Instagram today, it is very hard to track cyberbullying and because of this, it has become quite common. Users have been sharing negative comments on people’s posts and the only punishment for this is that the comment is taken down when reported but by then the damage has already been done.

Although, Instagram is now supposed to be working on some new features for their platform to stop cyberbullying all together. The new features include a “nudge” message where Instagram will send the user a message if they are about to comment something offensive or hurtful, this new way of addressing bullying could be a major success as it will keep a record of users who are commenting hurtful content and it can be taken further from there. Another feature aimed to stop hurtful comments on Instagram is the new “Manage Interactions” setting, this will allow users to choose how different people can engage with them, for example if a user is being tormented online they can choose to not allow that certain person to comment on their posts. These features could have a very positive effect on mental health as they will no longer have to worry about being bullied on their posts and will be free to post whatever content they choose.

Are these new features a big step forward in the anti-bullying campaign?

What are other competitors doing?

As you know Facebook does own Instagram and therefore it is likely that if this removal of likes does prove to be a success then Facebook will do the same and will need to change their whole algorithm in order to do so. Another platform that has been following Instagram’s test is Twitter, who have now reportedly started a prototype app called “twttr”. This prototype aims to remove like and retweet counts on their popular platform so that users will stop doubting themselves because someone has else has more likes.

It seems that all of the Social Media platforms have realised the damage their apps have caused to user’s mental health and are now aiming to rectify this by adding these new features to make Social Media fun again.

Will Social Media become a fun place again?

What does this mean for marketing?

There is only one disadvantage to this new Instagram test and that is because Instagram Influencers will no longer be able to gain money by posting products on their profile. This is because the sponsored content is measured on how many likes they get and if they get enough then they will be paid. However, with the like count being removed companies will no longer be able to see who is getting a lot of engagement on their profile and therefore users will lose the opportunity for paid promotions. Instagram has said they are thinking of ways to make sure that paid promotions still happen on their platform but for now, it looks like it will stop.

Although this is a very small disadvantage in a rather large cause to fight back against mental health problems. The way we see it is that mental health is a much larger priority then influencers advertising products to gain more money.

It’s time to speak up!

If you are struggling with any mental health issues or are experiencing anxiety when using Social Media please take a break from it and talk to someone. The links to a number of helplines are below and we urge you to contact them if you are feeling down.

YoungMinds – https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/conditions/depression/

Childcare – https://www.childline.org.uk/

Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/

If you would like to join the discussion and answer the questions within the blog be sure to get in touch.

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