Why Hiding Likes on Instagram May Stifle Creative Growth

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Social Coddling, Positive Change for Mental Health, or Just Another Way to Make Money?

I don’t want to be one of those people complaining about a social media platform making changes, but here I am. Instagram is currently testing hiding ‘likes’ on posts from the public in a few different countries. With this change, account owners can still see likes on their posts, but they won’t be able to see the likes on other accounts. The reported goal for this change is to lessen social pressure, allow people to focus on their content, and to increase general well-being. Sounds good, right?

Not to me. I don’t agree with it. In fact, it peeves me right off. Though, I believe I have a good reason and it’s not just “OMG, I hate change!”

Now, I want to point out that I am speaking as a creator on Instagram. Not as a general user posting selfies or pics of my dinner. Though, I will touch on that too…

The importance of feedback And Social input

How do comedians know if their joke was funny? The crowd laughs.

How do aspiring comedians find teachers and subjects to mimic? They look at how the crowd responds to other comedians they respect.

How do comedians know what jokes push the envelope too far in negative ways? They test the waters themselves, or they observe how the crowd reacts to other comedian’s jokes.

The need for social validation is not new, and the ability to observe how the world reacts to other creators serves a purpose. So what happens if you remove that?

I believe it cuts off an opportunity to learn and grow.

I have a goal to never be the smartest or most skilled person in a room, because I have no choice but to grow and learn in those environments. And I find the smarter/skilled people by observing social groups. Who is respected? Who is treated with kindness? Who makes positive social impacts? Whose ideas are well received? Who is getting attention? Who is great at what they do?

On Instagram and other social media platforms, that translates to who has more followers and whose posts get more likes. I find myself looking over a lot of Instagram accounts that are more successful than mine in order to learn from them.

Feedback and comparison is needed in creative growth.

Yes, yes, I know comparison is the thief of joy, and I agree with that to a certain extent, but when you are trying to improve your craft, comparison shows you what is possible and how you can adjust your current methods for greater success.

Seeing how similar creatives in your field are doing is important. Observing the success of others is the first step to dissecting how that success was achieved and how you can mimic it.

If you remove your insecurities from the equation and look at the facts of how and why different social accounts are getting more or less “likes” than your own posts, you can make adjustments to how you do things. Focus on what you can control. Can you alter your content? Can you refine your message? Can you post more? Have you found your audience yet? Do those accounts pay for likes or use bots? How is that user speaking to their audience?

When I see another artist getting more likes on their posts, I take this as an opportunity to study what they are doing. How can I create content that performs as well as the other creators I respect?

By hiding ‘likes’ it will be harder to determine how successful other posts are. Sure, you won’t be able to go down the “this person got more likes than me and they are clearly prettier and more loved and I’m just an ugly nobody” spiral as easily–but I don’t think hiding likes is the solution for that issue in the first place.

Hiding likes is social coddling.

Comparison goes wrong when your insecurities take the wheel.

I have suffered from depression, anxiety, and have been the victim of getting more and more depressed by scrolling through social feeds and seeing others living their best life and looking super fricken pretty while doing it. I have been there.

I have also been on the other side, where I scroll and get more and more excited that other people are also living their best life on social media. The platform isn’t the problem. It’s all about where you are in your own head.

Hiding likes on social media may allow a little relief from unhealthy comparison–but it’s half measure and frankly, I don’t think Instagram gives a shit about our mental health. If Instagram wanted to help people focus less on digital social approval, then they’d just dismantle the app and tell people to put their phones down.

This change is just removing the ability to compare the popularity of your posts with posts from other users, but it doesn’t remove the follower count. It doesn’t remove the comments, and it doesn’t change the obsessive need to keep pushing out content or be validated by the world. Rather than taking a step back and assessing your mental needs, Instagram wants you to keep scrolling, keep seeing ads, keep spending time on the platform. Not seeing likes will just help numb insecurities so you keep calm and keep scrolling.

I DO care about your mental Health

For the average user, we really don’t need to waste time comparing our 20 like selfie to Becky’s 100 like selfie when we’re feeling insecure. That’s a trap, (“OMG, Becky’s not even hot!”). Thus, in a sense, hiding likes can be beneficial.

Though, if you frequently feel down when you see another account getting more likes than you, then you might need to step away from social media or mute the accounts that trigger your insecurities while you do some introspection. If you are running a business and can’t really step away, then just use the app for your own posts and don’t keep scrolling through other artist’s accounts.

If Becky’s likes upset you, you need to look inside yourself and figure out why you have this reaction. I say this, because I’ve been there. (I’m kind of there now.) I know how depressing it can be when you need validation and positive feedback, and you get crickets, but hiding the success of others won’t fix your insides. It will just keep you calm and distracted from actually addressing your insecurities. And it will keep you scrolling while Instagram rakes in cash from ads.

Your worth is not tied to how many likes you get, or how many followers you have. Your worth is not tied to your face or your body. Instead, think about the impact you make on the world around you. Did you inspire somebody today? Did you make someone smile by giving them a compliment? Did you listen to someone when they were having a hard time? Did you give encouragement to a friend? Did you enrich yourself by reading a book or watching a documentary?

We need to start internally qualifying social impact instead of quantifying it, but hiding likes is a band-aid.

Social media platforms have a tendency of bringing out the worst in us. They expose our insecurities, our darker thoughts, and our dysfunctions–but they also can expose our kindness, our desire to help others, and our genuine love for friends and family. It’s your choice as to how you want to show up digitally.

***

I am not a fan of Instagram’s choice to hide likes–and I don’t know if this will roll out to all users in the future. A lot of us do have issues with our sense of self-worth while scrolling through social media, and we need to fix that, but I can’t help but feel this change is purely motivated by money and it will take away the positive aspect of social comparison when it comes to creativity. Though, if this helps improve the mental health of younger users who are still forming their identities, then I’m for it.

What do you think?

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday. And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

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6 thoughts on “Why Hiding Likes on Instagram May Stifle Creative Growth”

  1. Thanks Kelly for writing this article. I’m in a country without likes & it’s made it hopeless for trying to build up a following & most importantly gain audience feedback. As an artist I care about how my art impacts others, whether positive or negative. You are the first person with a large number of followers who has been honest about instagrams motives for the change. As an Art Therapist & Allied Health Professional I care deeply about people’s mental health issues but this change is doing nothing for people’s mental health.

    In fact as a business account I had a panic attack when I logged onto instagram and all the likes on my posts were gone!! Without any warning ⚠ That’s highly unprofessional & not good for anyone’s mental health. A fairer compromise could have left likes for business accounts and removed them from personal accounts. This would also help distinguish between accounts that are real & those that are “fake” or set up for monetary purposes.

    I love your latest article suggesting we expand to other platforms. I will look into this. Thank you so much!

    1. Jay, thank you so much for sharing your perspective as an artist and as a professional in the art therapy world. As each day passes, I fear Instagram is becoming less and less of an asset for creators. I agree that it would have been a better move to only target personal accounts for this change.

      I wish you luck with your exploration beyond Insta!

  2. Hi:

    I agree with everything you’ve said here. I know its crazy, but seeing other people’s likes definitely gives you a sense for what is resonating with people. Thanks for another thoughtful, engaging post. Keep it up!

  3. Loved the point about the relationship between a comedian and the room full of laughs. For someone in the business of entertaining or informing others, likes seem crucial.

    IMO, the lines blur when “regular” people who do not intend to be “comedians” suddenly find themselves on stage pandering for laughs. Through likes, our social interactions have become gamified. But without likes, how do you sort through the garbage? How do you find the content worth talking about?

    So much to sort out. Great post!

    p.s. I don’t know how, but Goodhart’s law seems to be at play here somewhere. “When the measure becomes the target, it ceases to be a good measure.” Likes used to be a measure for quality content. Now the script is flipped for many.

    1. It’s a hard area to tackle, for sure! In a way, we are all performers in our own stories. It’s hard not to do something with the intention of getting a social reaction. Whether it’s in a friend group, online, or in business. Maybe we can be more intentional with the reactions we seek? I agree that getting likes for the sake of getting likes shouldn’t be the goal.

      I’m glad you liked it!

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