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The only way social media should affect your mental health is for the better. It should absolutely never, ever be a platform that makes you feel bad about yourself and your life. The fact that we even have to say that is devastating, but such is the level of abuse and trolling that exists on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. 

And if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to ramp up our level of general grumpiness when it comes to social media, it’s so-called influencers claiming that changes to Instagram have negatively impacted their mental health. We’re not for one second acting as psychologists but throwing around that kind of rhetoric does nothing to help support those going through a genuine illness and honestly being pissed off about some changes to Insta is not the same as battling anxiety and depression on a daily basis so please stop it.

Right then, the changes. What has Instagram done to so deeply disturb the influencer community and why on earth should we care, given that they’ll probably head over to Tik Tok at some point anyway, if they’re not there already?

In essence, Facebook-owned Instagram decided to remove the number of likes next to each post, trialling it in Australia. You’ll still see the number of people who like your post, but the number will not be publicly displayed. Yes, that’s it. Were you expecting more? For some, the move will hardly matter. For others though, it was a BIG DEAL. Just ask social media influencer Mikaela Testa, from Melbourne, who claimed the platform did not care for the feelings of Instagram influencers, not one bit. She might be right, but her “really big break” from the platform lasted one day so perhaps her feelings were ok in the end.

Hurt feelings aside, why then is Instagram trialling these changes? The answer is because it claims it’s concerned about users’ mental wellbeing and the rise of the so-called validation culture which pits posters against each other to win the popularity stakes. Only got seven likes for that picture of your cat? Don’t be disheartened, the number is now hidden so now you’ve no reason to feel bad about yourself. Yes, you can still see how unpopular you are but your followers won’t.

And that’s the weird thing, isn’t it? You will still know how many likes you get, so will making that information private rather than public really make that big of a difference to improving mental health? We are not convinced.

“We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves. We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love.” – Mia Garlick, director of policy for Facebook Australia & New Zealand.

How nice, but not everyone is convinced that Instagram’s new policy is based solely on altruistic tendencies. In fact, some observers suggest that the move is entirely motivated by greed or at least a desire to ramp up profit. How? By taking away the ability to track how many people have liked an influencer’s post for a product they’ve been paid to promote. Without that tracking how will companies know how effectively that influencer’s post is working? Instead, they may turn to the platform itself and pay for advertising services.

Now doesn’t that sound a little more likely than removing like counts for the sake of mental health and wellbeing? We think so, but accept we might be wrong. After all, Instagram was described two years ago as being the worst of the social media platforms when it came to protecting young people’s mental health. The results came out as part of research conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health and placed Insta and Snapchat firmly at the bottom of the table with YouTube at the top.

It’s no wonder the channel made moves to address these issues, being at the bottom of the table isn’t a good look for anyone. It’s taken a couple of years to come up with this plan and you have to hand it to Instagram, it’s kind of ingenious. Tap into the influencer’s payout, while also claiming to draw a line under validation culture. Making money while claiming to care, we love it!

Perhaps Testa is right after all, not about taking a break from Instagram obviously, but maybe she’s making a point when she says: “Instagram isn’t even doing this for mental health they’re just doing it so they can control all engagement so more businesses run their adverts through Instagram essentially giving them more $, they don’t care about your feelings.”

Maybe the message to take away here is whoever you are and whatever you do, however many followers you have, do not rely on a platform like Instagram to validate who you are. Go ahead and post your cat picture, those who love you will care and who’s even counting those hearts anyway?

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