I made my first Instagram account in the sixth grade and, even then, it was all about earning that sacred double tap. I incessantly refreshed the page after I posted a new picture and deleted pictures if I thought they didn’t get enough likes. Six years later, I still worry about whether my pictures are “Insta-worthy.”
I enjoy posting photos on Instagram, but being so preoccupied with getting likes can’t be good for my mental health. I’d find posting a lot less stressful if I could focus on what I actually want to share, not how many people approve of my photos.
I’m not the only one worried about what Instagram is doing to my health. A recent study of American teens conducted by the Child Mind Institute linked the use of social media apps to depression, anxiety, loneliness, poor sleep quality, and negative body image. It makes sense to me that constantly seeing a number under your Instagram photos would make it easy to equate that number with your self-worth.
My friends and I spend a huge amount of time deliberating over our posts. When I scroll through Instagram, I can’t help but check the number of likes my friends and classmates get on their pictures—and question why I don’t measure up.
In fact, the competition to get likes on Instagram is so intense that some users pay for fake likes on their posts. Buying likes creates a false impression of how popular a post really is, and it sets unrealistic expectations for users seeing those huge numbers. Getting rid of likes would allow for more authenticity. People might post photos that are meaningful to them, instead of only posting photos they think will get the widest approval. Think about it: Would you post differently if likes were not a factor?
Clearly, social media is here to stay, and there are positives to having an Instagram account—like connecting with friends and sharing experiences. But obsessing over the number of likes you get is not a benefit. At a time when more than 100 million people per month use Instagram, something needs to change so users don’t feel anxious every time they post. Eliminating likes may be just the thing.