The spiral of silence theory postulates that sometimes people don’t voice their opinions (when you do not necessarily agree with those of the majority) because they are afraid of being isolated.
According to this reasoning, we are constantly measuring the general opinion of our environment to determine which opinions we can express and which we can not: if we notice that others think differently, we self-censor.
This is how the "spiral" figure is drawn, as those who have less mainstream positions are muted (or self-censor) and the opinions that are perceived as majority increase and become dominant.
While this is just an overview of how, as a society, we react to certain opinions or people who represent those opinions; we can see its relevance on the announcement made by Instagram about changes they will be implementing and the reasoning behind it.The platform admitted that it is experimenting with hiding the amount of likes that the posts receive, in order for users to focus on expressing themselves and not worry so much about being “liked”.
The objective of this experiment would be for the users to recover creativity and spontaneity to express what they feel, as it was before but was lost to the anxiety of not getting approval from the followers through likes.
"We don't want Instagram to be a popularity contest, we're looking for users to re-focus on the content they share." - according to Adam Mosseri a company spokesperson.
However, the news generated a lot of controversy. Mostly in the field of Influencers, these popular characters in social media that monetize these indicators. For them the "likes" (along with the comments and followers) are a way to measure the status of an Instagram account and Influencers are the way to quantify their ability to persuade their community.
What is the change?
In the context of the F8, an annual conference organized by Facebook, Instagram formalized what was, until now, a rumor: the social network is experimenting with hiding the number of "likes" that a publication gets.
This way, the number of likes would only be available for the author of the post and would no longer appear in the publications feed or in the user profile.
The company explained that, for now, the experiment will only take place in a test for a group of users in Canada.
While at the moment it is just a trial, the decision of Instagram has generated controversy because it changes the dynamics that the app itself has established: instead of concentrating on the immediate value assigned to the content that is shared, its intention is that the user decides, once again, the value to what he wants to say and share.
In addition to limiting the phenomenon of like buying, they understand that the measure will fight against the false popularity and demotivation that it can produce in the authentic content creators.
Now that the likes will lose some of its importance, Instagram will seek to foster a more positive interaction among the users: to focus back on self-expression and to generate genuine content.
Despite everything mentioned before, the likes will continue to have relevance for the algorithm and also for the statistics, because they can still be seen from the creator's account.
The instagram post with the most likes.
What is the real dimension of the pressure of likes on Instagram?
Likes are the way in which users show approval for the content they see. To the point that many users delete or hide their post with few "Likes" to display better stats to their followers.
In social terms, there have been studies that warn that this type of interaction generates disorders such as anxiety, as well as, warning that being perceived to have low popularity having a negative impact on the mood. Therefore, from this perspective, Instagram's argument that the creation of content is conditioned by the followers' gaze is relevant.
Trying to hide the likes was the most controversial modification that Instagram announced, but the company reported other changes that aim to optimize the user experience on the platform. Here is a summary of the new implementations:
- Possibility of purchasing from Influencers’ profiles: Instagram will allow users to buy all kinds of products directly from the profiles of the influencers. From now on, content creators can tag in their publications the products that appear in the post and indicate how and where they can be purchased, so that the acquisition is within the app and not on an external site.
- Sticker for donations: users will be able to request money for nongovernmental organizations and charitable causes, using a sticker for donation in Instagram Stories. It can be used by any user and 100% of the money donated will go to the charity. For now, it will only work in the United States.
- Improvements in the camera: another measure to promote the generation of authentic content is a new camera function with new features that will be introduced in the coming weeks.
What can we expect?
It would be irresponsible and even alarmist to make predictions about the impact that this experiment could have, because, as of now, it is only that: an experiment. Nowadays there are many people who are linked economically to Instagram, such as Influencers who generate income from based on the likes in their posts. The large amounts of likes that these characters get in the networks have seduced brands to advertise their products and services within these platforms.
In addition to this, considering that the goal of Instagram is that the content is, once again, the king of virtual interaction, it is not easy to take measures that may affect these Influencers, authentic creators of attractive content for the users, being clear that they have played a leading role in the growth of the network.
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