The Canterbury Hub

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Instagram CEO: “We’re trying to reduce anxiety”

This months Wired tech 25 conference involved a sit-down with Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri. The conference presented an explanation for the Instagram update of private like counts that is currently being tested in some parts of the world.

The update was first tested in seven countries including Brazil, Canada and Japan. Testing then began reaching devices in the US and is now beginning to reach devices in the UK

It was initially announced that Instagram were considering hiding likes in May this year. Private like counts has meant that the number of likes has been removed and replaced with terms like “others” and “thousands of others”. A number of public figures have come forward with their own theories of the reason behind why the social networking service would do this. Well-known figures continued to speak out following the Wired tech 25 conference.

“The idea is to try and depressurise Instagram, make it less of a competition, give people more space to focus on connecting with the people that they love, things that inspire them,” the CEO of Instagram gave his explanation of the objective of making like numbers private. “But it’s really focused on young people, we have to see how it affects how people feel about the platform”.

Three days ago Ellen DeGeneres celebrated reaching eighty million followers on Instagram. “I think if getting rid of something they should get rid of comments.” During her TV talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the comedian gave her input on Instagram’s current focus being on concealing likes rather than comments. “That’s where all the trouble is”.

It is already possible that individuals can disable the comments on their post, preventing anyone from commenting under their photos or videos. Earlier this month singer-songwriter Summer Walker had disabled all the comments on her Instagram profile following experiencing online abuse and speaking out about her crippling social anxiety. 

This year Instagram also introduced a restricting comments feature that allowed people to approve comments before they were made public to everyone, as well as allowing users to hide read receipts when they are directly messaged by someone. The aim behind the feature was to discourage online bullying by making it more difficult to do so. 

Back in July the This Morning Show were joined by Real Housewives of Cheshire star, Dawns Ward, alongside her daughter Taylor who gave up her nine-to-five job for a career as a social media influencer. “I work with a lot of clothing brands and they’ll look on my profile and they’ll look which of my posts get the most engagement as an indication as what my followers like seeing.” Like many social media influencers, Taylor expressed concern that hiding like counts would negatively impact people like her who’s main incomes are through their Instagram advertisements. The Instagram influencer claims she can currently make thousands of pounds within months from what she advertises on her page.

Taylor’s mother also opposed the change with its purpose apparently being to remove the insecurities it can create for young people. “We’re talking about the word like, that is a positive thing,” unlike apps like YouTube, there is not an option to ‘dislike’ something. “You’re always going to get somebody with more likes, with better hair, that is life in general”.

There has been much debate on whether we are becoming an over-sensitive society that are trying too hard to please everyone. During this period, terms like “snowflake” are increasingly being used. The term means people are easily offended and self-entitled. 

Nicki Minaj has taken to Instagram Live to express to her fans what she believes is going on with Instagram

Nicki Minaj currently has over one hundred eight million followers on Instagram and has used the service for seven years now. “They don’t want you to go off on the side, forming all sorts of businesses and being able to say you know, I get this amount of likes and charge brands,” the rapper did a live stream on Instagram where she vocalised what she believed to be the reason behind hiding like numbers. “Now those companies will have to go instead of going to you they will have to go and pay Instagram”.

When questioned on whether Adam Mosseri felt that private like counts would put pressure on other social media apps, particularly Facebook – the company that owns Instagram, the executive expressed that he hoped it would. He explained how he would like to think that Instagram is leading the way for other platforms to think more holistically. Whether or not Facebook will also take on the private likes approach is still in early testing phase. 

“Likes are a bit more core to how Facebook works maybe, so I think it’s okay for one to launch and not the other to launch, but i’ve been trying to encourage them and support them as they experiment with this as well”.

The growing discussion of the importance of mental health awareness may mean we can expect to see a range of online platforms adapting their systems as time progresses.