CRISCIONE: Instagram update improves application


Column: The Digital Downfall

Instagram has recently released information that it will get rid of the "likes" number on pictures to help mental health. 

The issue of mental health has been apparent since the rise of social media. The battle for more likes and follows really can shape the way someone exists in a virtual context and can impact them on a personal level. Often times we see people deleting photos or looking down upon themselves if they do not reach a certain number of likes.

“I think especially if someone is posting a photo because they need that instant gratification and they need that like, if they are not getting it ... it can feel really isolating,” said Julie Burke, a teen counselor.

Following this issue, many social media experts have been backing this idea and seeing more and more how media can make someone miserable. Comparing real life to online life in any way, shape or form is the most dangerous thing someone can do. Since the online world is essentially fake now and only shows the positives, it can give people a false idea of what life is like. 

“Screens offer a form of connection, but what’s missing is face-to-face interaction, eye contact and touch. Increased time on social media can lead to FOMO, fear of missing out. And, the more social media accounts a person has compounded with the amount of time devoted to being online can create or exacerbate depression and anxiety," said Katie Erickson, clinical director and licensed professional clinical counselor at Duluth Counseling Center.

This impacts a majority of college students who use social media to communicate and interact. Using social media to post and see positivity when times are tough has become a norm for young adults and students. The issue is that our minds are beyond active on a daily basis and social media can keep that activity going.

It also triggers multiple brain actions that can change someone's emotional status. Dopamine levels can change drastically when someone posts something that either gets a lot of likes or a few likes. Removing this primary feature could leave many young people feeling lost, but at the same time it can help many who fear the number of likes. 

Instagram and Facebook will now be removing targeted posts for weight-loss and cosmetic procedures for people under the age of 18. Instagram is not only removing likes, but it is also addressing one of the major mental issues that come with social media: body dysmorphia. This will most likely branch off into less targeted advertising and more open advertising. The reason for this is that it is becoming more and more clear how deep the dangers of addiction go with social media. 

“We’ve also gone a step further where young people are concerned, and the action that we’re taking for the under-18s is that any branded promotion of weight-loss products or undertaking of cosmetic procedures will be restricted so under-18s won’t see them,” said Instagram’s Public Policy Manager Emma Collins

Another important factor is how inflated these "likes" and numbers can become. It has become extremely easy to manipulate the number of likes someone sees simply by buying likes or promoting a post to no end. This can create a fake image and perception of likes, increasing the chances of getting featured. 

This is actually extremely important in the bigger picture. This impacts not only common users, but also celebrities and businesses. Many celebrities and businesses survive off the artificial number of likes that they have. Often times, getting likes quickly or having many likes can lead someone to being on the featured page, which could alter their business and following. 

Many businesses are against this, and there will likely be protests from them in comparison to people approving them. 

Alexander Criscione is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies. His column, “The Digital Downfall,” runs on alternate Thursdays.

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