The pit of eternal fire that is social media appears, we hope at least, to be cooling. As JWT reports this week, the era of Kardashian-influenced pout-for-likes posts on Instagram are changing to a more content-rich, engagement-driven model which has the added benefit of longer user session times.
Not only is this good for publishers, but it's good for users. By gradually switching them to a means of engagement where posting for the sheer volume of likes is replaced by a calmer, deeper means of interaction, the health of the user should gain a positive benefit too.
Numerous studies in recent years have highlighted the effects of social media on mental health. In a 2017 survey of 1,500 gen Zers and millennials by the UK's Royal Society for Public Health, Instagram was named the worst platform for users' wellbeing, with particularly low marks when it came to body image. Many blame a relentless, opportunistic influencer culture, where highly curated photos—featuring everything from an impromptu shoot at the scene of a motorcycle accident to a brand-sponsored marriage proposal—set expectations that are unattainable or unrealistic.J. Walter Thompson Intelligence
In July 2019, Instagram began trialing a "hidden likes" feature designed to encourage users to focus less on what people think of their photos and more on the content itself. Now being implemented in seven countries, the change is intended to relieve some of the pressure of a feed needing to look "perfect" so that users can share "authentically and comfortably," according to a spokesperson for Facebook, Instagram's parent company. Facebook is rumored to be next in line for the feature, while earlier in 2019, Twitter had also experimented with hiding its likes behind a user tap in a beta version of an app update, in order to make it easier and "healthier" to follow conversations.
Interestingly, the Threads app for Instagram which lets users share a lot more beside pics, is influenced by Snap - which has experienced 9% growth over the past year. Snapchat does seem like a slow burner - where Instagram, Facebook and the like take all of the exposure, Snap is enjoying sustained success without so much exposure. Perhaps that's the plan.