A Step Towards Mental Health Consciousness for Teenagers

Instagram is trying to cause less stress from its app and give people more freedom and space to be themselves without the stress of “likes.” Their first step is removing the feature showing the number of likes posts receive. However, those likes aren’t completely gone. Users can still view the number of likes on their own post, just not how many likes their followers receive on a post. 

Instagram’s change was due to the reported negative mental health effects of likes. Many of these concerns have been expressed by GDS students. Instagram’s old policy on likes “felt like a competition for who gets the most likes,” sophomore Julian Galkin said. “It did promote a lot of stress and negative feelings.”  

The experiment of taking away likes began in Canada and has spread to Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and is now starting in the United States. However, not everyone in the United States no longer has likes, only those selected to be part of the test group. 

We don’t know how this change will play out in the long run, but many GDS students feel that removing likes will help people’s well-being and health. “I still think it is a good step towards positive mental health and not judging ourselves based on one number,” Galkin said. 

It might also promote a healthier environment where people can use Instagram as a platform to be a more authentic version of themselves.   

The new policy could be a major stride towards making the Instagram platform a more inclusive and positive space for users. Danny Stock, GDS’s storyteller and media associate, said,  “If new policies reduce traffic to our content but positively impact student wellness, we would count that a win, without question.”

GDS students even pinpoint how Instagram’s changes could lead to a positive effect on students’ experience with the app. Junior Ella Farr said, “I think Instagram will become more for each individual person’s use instead of for competition.” In that way, the Instagram platform can become more of a real space where people don’t feel nervous to post or worried about what people will think about their account. And there is a feeling among students that many of the changes to student Instagram usage are currently underway. 

“It makes me feel like I can post more stuff and not feel nervous about it,” Galkin said when asked about the effects of Instagram’s changes. By reducing the stress from likes, GDS students can make the platform their own and express themselves. People could focus on what they actually like rather than following a trend or what they believe is popular at the time. Instagram can become a platform for more genuine posts.   

While GDS students have expressed positive feedback, media reports raise a different perspective. Influencers, who make money based on how many likes they get, may not like Instagram’s new initiative. Because the number of likes are hidden to followers, it is possible that viewers will not like as many posts. The hidden likes could be a big problem for influencers who get paid by the like. With this new policy, Instagram may become more of an outlet for expression rather than a platform for business. However, it is far too early in the process to see any major changes. Time will tell the effects of taking away likes.

Kate Vidano ’21