Does Instagram’s new feature of disabling the number of likes shown help to diminish the body image issues prevalent in Australia’s women?
Instagram is accessible to anyone who uses the internet. Each user can freely browse Instagram’s explore page, typically featuring uploads from self proclaimed ‘social media influencers’ flaunting their ‘slim yet curvy’ body types.
The extensive number of likes accumulated by these posts were featured beneath each upload until July 18 2019 to “benefit everyone’s experience on Instagram”. However, Instagram’s international influence on the perception of ideal body types cannot be simply reversed with the removal of the likes shown feature. The global social media platform has already contributed to the destruction of confidence amongst young women all over the world.
We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get. You can still see your own likes by tapping on the list of people who've liked it, but your friends will not be able to see how many likes your post has received.
— Instagram (@instagram) July 17, 2019
A study at the University of Tehran conducted in 2016 found Instagram to be one of three key themes linked to body image concerns among Iranian female students. The study found that social pressure on Instagram changes the nature of beauty for Iranian people and encourages a certain type of appearance. One woman interviewed even confessed “in fact, the reason that I went to solariums, was Instagram’s fashions”.
Prior to July 18, we lived in a world where people waited until “prime time” at 7pm to post their photo, to ensure that it would accumulate the highest number of likes possible. Young women who fail to generate the number of likes they desire naturally compare themselves to women who do, potentially harming their self-esteem.
The Butterfly Foundation, representing those affected by eating disorders and negative body image issues, has released a statement on the Instagram changes.
The foundation’s CEO, Kevin Borrow, says: “Platforms or public scenarios that promote measuring your life based on external validation can be very damaging. It can have a detrimental impact on self-esteem, promote over emphasis of external validation and personal worth, and significantly impact too many people’s mental health.”
Borrow described recent Instagram changes as “a step in the right direction, and it builds on their previous recognition of the impact of dangerous hashtags that promote dangerous eating disorders and dietary practices”.
Psychiatrist Dr. Mark Berelowitz says that “social media just creates an intolerable degree of pressure particularly on young women”. Through his investigation of the link between Instagram use and body image concerns, he says that social media creates “the idea that you could be perfect, have the perfect body, the perfect lifestyle and have everybody admiring you”.
Yes, Instagram has disabled the likes shown feature to reverse likes from being the focus of posts, but what this update cannot re is the damage that has already destroyed the confidence of young women before July 18 2019.