By now you may have heard that Instagram as we know it is changing. Gone are the days where we beat ourselves up for the number of likes our competition is receiving, or basing our own perceived success off of the number of likes we accumulate (and how many others may be seeing them). Based on a 2017 Study from the Royal Society for Public Health, Instagram scored particularly badly for its impact on causing body image issues, FOMO, and more. In fact, research shows that when an adolescent receives a ‘like’ on an image or video, it triggers a similar response to cocaine or scoring a big win when gambling.
When referring to Instagram’s own messaging,
‘We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get. During this test, only you will be able to see the total number of likes on your posts.’
It becomes obvious that the change stems from a positive place. But that’s now how it’s being perceived on a grand scale.
On my own Instagram post, backlash included:
To me, the uproar around ‘likes’ is the exact reason they’re detrimental to mental health and society as a whole. People are far too caught up in posting for others instead of posting content that is authentic to themselves and their brand.
As someone who does influencer marketing on my personal account, I tried to sympathize with this common rhetoric – that this Instagram update is the ‘death of the influencer’. To that I say, what is your backup plan? Do you have a website? A newsletter list? Something that is yours? Social media is a privilege, something that many of us feel entitled to because of how normalized it has become in our daily lives. But removing ‘likes’ isn’t the death of the influencer. The death of the influencer is entitlement and reliance. Reliance on their following and engagement to be enough to warrant a hefty brand sponsor or ambassadorship. Entitlement that Instagram owes them to not change the primary feature on which they’ve grown. But here’s the half cup full in this scenario: this also evens the playing field for content creators who are purely that – creators of kick ass content. Stunning imagery and videos, creative boomerangs and product shots, who, up until now, maybe did not have the viewable engagement to secure partnerships and ambassadorships going to the insta models and whoever is winning the latest popularity contest. For them, this is a good thing. This evens the playing field and encourages brands to work with those who genuinely represent them through their content instead of granting a partnership based on prevalence and entitlement.
If Influencers are fearing for their livelihood, they should be. Because thinking that social media will remain constant and never-changing is a mistake. Adapt or die, friends. Adapt, or die.