Body-image issues, anxiety, depression and sleep deprivation have been reported to be affecting social media users, most of which tend to be young people.
Instagram proving to be one of the worst offenders with around 700 million users around the world, recent studies have shown that Instagram has one of the worst effects on your mental health according to a study by UK’s Royal Society for Public Health.
The average 16-24 year old spends 34.3 hours a week on the internet and check their phone every 8.6 minutes. It is no wonder rates of anxiety and depression have increased by 70% in the past 25 years. With over 91% of 16-24 year olds using the internet for social media this is a huge amount of people being affected.
Studies have also shown that receiving phone notifications sends a rush of chemical dopamine to the brain and makes social media addictive and can have the same effects to the brain similar to gambling.
Social media however certainly isn’t all bad news. It can promote sense of community and allow people from all walks of life to connect who may never have had the chance to meet in real life & giving people a platform for self-expression.
However, in light of these RSPH studies on how social media is affecting mental health. Instagram has recently conducted a study in Canada, where they have removed the likes from posts in a bid to get people to post photos of things they love and are interested in rather than photos that will get them the most likes.
Only the person posting the post will be able to see the likes / views, in a hope by getting rid of the liking part of the platform, it will reduce the pressure for people to ‘get enough likes’ and stop deleting them if they do not get enough likes.
They are now running the test in 7 other countries, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan & New Zealand. If Instagram are to see positive changes it is likely to roll out to more countries.
While this may be a good thing for the majority of people, influences have built careers on these platforms and with algorithms already affecting the likes on posts as they are not being seen by their followers, this is another thing which could be a detriment to their growth and career. There are many elements to Influencers campaigns, not just likes. Did the brand see a rise in sales after the campaign? The influencer also has access to the backend analytics of their business accounts which will show performance.
We think that it is great that a social media platform is listening to research on mental health, if removing this feature from Instagram allows users to be able to post images & videos more freely without the pressure of having to obtain likes, we believe that it will increase user happiness and hopefully elevate some of the negative side effects caused in this digital media age.