My Thoughts on the Instagram Change (& Tying Self-Worth to Numbers)

Hi, friends. Today, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on both the new policy on Instagram (hiding the “like” count on pictures) and why measuring self-worth in numbers is a bad thing.

The Basic Gist & People’s Reactions

This article can catch you up if you’ve no idea what I’m referring to. In summary, we can no longer see how many likes other users have on their photos; we can only see the total on our own photos. In the past, a photo from Billie Eilish (popstar) might have “such-n-such and 3,455,870 others” written underneath it to signify the like count, while Joe Shmoe might have “such-n-such and 8 others” beneath his post. Now, Billie Eilish and Joe Shmoe have the same phrase under their photos–“such-n-such and others.”

Reactions to the change have been mixed. Mental health advocates praise the change because the reduction of competition will help people stop constantly playing a comparison game. Social media influencers and celebrities, many of whom put in work to build their followings, worry their brands will suffer. It seems to me that these viewpoints represent regular users whose self-perception is harmed by an incessant need for validation vs. business people who throw themselves into the internet’s competition for attention and thrive from high like counts (others are attracted to whatever is “going viral” or seems popular; we are mob-mentality creatures).

My Two Cents: Seeing Both Perspectives

I embrace the change because I predict it will facilitate a healthier environment. The owner of IG, Adam Mosseri, said he wants to “depressurize” the platform, and I believe this is a step in the right direction. People will spend less time trying to build up a digital throne–liking lots of pictures so they’ll get lots of likes, only posting flawless photos with perfectly apt, witty captions so they’ll grab the most attention–and spend more time liking things they genuinely like, posting photos without worrying about appearing uncool and unworthy due to low like counts. [A lot of people will still build digital thrones for personal validation, but at least there won’t be as strong a social pressure to do so.]

On the flip side, though, I can understand how influencers feel, especially if sponsorship opportunities are tied to follower and like counts. Mosseri has addressed these concerns, adding they want to find a way for influencers to “communicate values” to businesses. I’m not proud to admit this, but I think I would react negatively if WordPress eliminated the like count for blog posts. Many including myself have tied their self-worth to likes, and yes, I feel validated as a writer/blogger/creator when I get more attention. I suppose it wouldn’t inhibit me from seeing my own like count, though–just the like count of others. Hmm, that could actually be ideal.

Tying self-worth to numbers is so toxic.

For one, we are never satisfied; two years ago, ten likes would’ve made my week, but if I got ten likes on a post now, I’d be bummed. Numbers are infinite, so whether we get 10, 100, 1 k, or 1 mill. likes, we can always desire more. Secondly, we spend extra time feeling bad about ourselves. I know (because I’ve read y’all share your own experiences) that many of us beat ourselves up when we get less views or likes than usual, when we have a stat spike one day then return to our average amount, etc. I’ve been feeling bad lately because my like counts have stagnated in the last year, despite an increasing follower count (perhaps they’re mostly spam).

In a hypothetical world, it’d change the way we use social media and the way we think about ourselves and others if we completely eliminated like counts on everything. Since that won’t happen, perhaps we can try to remember that a digital throne is just that–digital, i.e., not real.

Thanks for reading! What’s your opinion on the IG change or social media validation in general? Let me know in the comments.

26 comments

  1. Although I don’t participate much in social media, not in Instagram at all, I think the changes are good. You gave a very balanced response to this issue. Studies have shown that there’s a lot of harmful psychological issues related to social media.

    You said: “Many including myself have tied their self-worth to likes, and yes, I feel validated as a writer/blogger/creator when I get more attention.”

    That’s very honest of you, Lily. 🙂 And, at least to some degree, this is true for all of us. We need to honestly question why we write what we write. Is it to fulfill a need for affirmation or because we have something we need to say? Of course, there are other healthy reasons, and we should encourage one another, but it can also feed some insecurity that we should be asking ourselves why this is so and be healed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe that on the studies of social media; it can feel like an incessant popularity contest. As to your question of why we write, that’s a good point of reflection, and I think I and many others do have things we need to say, but our fleshly pride likes to creep in and distract us!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Many including myself have tied their self-worth to likes, and yes, I feel validated as a writer/blogger/creator when I get more attention.”

    These words piqued my interest, yet spoke volumes to my heart.

    Sometime ago, I almost stopped writing because engagements on my posts were poor.

    Likes and comments avoided me like a plaque. Then I began to doubt my abilities.

    I felt not cut out for writing.

    But I encouraged myself in God and moved on.

    I’m excited about the change in IG. It puts comparison in check.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Third party platforms linked to Instagram don’t hide likes, if anyone still wants to see likes on their photos and others’ photos. Google chrome has an Instagram extension which acts just like the phone version. The only thing it can’t upload is IG stories, but you can view them.

    I personally don’t use IG but have an account on there. I don’t like how I am restricted to creating a feed of photos which I can’t rearrange or put into albums (sorry IG admins, a group of 10 photos is not an album) This is limiting for my creativity since everything is in chronological order, making it difficult to scroll down to the oldest photos. I’m stuck debating whether to continue with IG. I don’t care much about likes and comments. It’s nice getting them, but in the end these people aren’t my friends. I learned this quickly after taking a 2 year hiatus from FB. I’m still on that hiatus. It feels too good not being chained down by social media.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to know about the third party platforms. That’s also a good point about IG albums and how they restrict creativity! Unlike on a blog, where we can arrange pictures, pages, blog posts, etc. in a million ways, we really are limited in the ways we present our content on social media. Important to remember yet easy to forget that the people who like our photos aren’t really our friends for the most part, more like “distantly friendly associates” lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I couldn’t have said that better myself, Lily! ❤ If you happen to use Instagram on a regular basis, definitely check out this Chrome extension. Sadly, most of these “DM friends” are shallow as their photos. It’s astonishing how friendly some of them are in the DMs and comments. And for what? A like for like? Follow for follow? Ugh. 🙄

        Like

  4. I think likes, regarding posts, can be beneficial to see an interest of what our audience might like. However, there is always that temptation to “stay” pleasing that audience for selfish purposes like you pointed out with IG.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great thought provoking post, as usual!! Thanks for sharing Lily! I’m pretty sure I camp out too much on viewing my likes on my own post and get disappointed when one doesn’t fare as well as I thought it would..in the end I need to remember that it’s all written for His purpose and since a majority of my posts are written in a life lesson format then maybe sometimes those words are posted for non other than myself..God does indeed teach me so much through my own posts regardless of who else is reading them!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so relate to this! Getting caught up in the attention, then remembering it’s written “for His purpose” (I see the genius in your blog name now, hehe), and realizing that I benefit from writing my posts regardless of who reads them. How cool is that God communicates with us through our own writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Their heart is in the right place, but on the other hand, it is MY responsibility to care for my mental health. I would rather it be a choice (such as private or public profile) and not automatic. It really never bothered me.

    I liked the count to know, at a glance, which posts people enjoyed most. For instance, showing people more pics of my dog because I saw it made them happy 🙂 I can still see the count, it just takes an extra click, so ultimately, I guess no big deal? I just find it creepy that Instagram is making weird choices based on my “mental health,” like I can’t make my own choices…

    Like

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