Is Your Well-being Suffering Because of Social Media Likes? 

Is Your Well-being Suffering Because of Social Media Likes? 

This guest blog post was written by one of our student volunteers (and only slightly edited by our writing crew.)

Is your well-being suffering because of social media likes?

If so, you’re not alone. In a recent study by the Royal Society for Public Health involving 1,500 teens and young adults, social media activities on Instagram were associated with “high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and a ‘fear of missing out (FOMO).” Both males and females report they regularly struggle to keep up with their peers on social media.

Knowing what exactly is causing these feelings, and learning how to safely combat them, is one way for students to protect themselves from some of these negative feelings many are experiencing behind their devices. 

Symbolized by a heart, located in the bottom left corner of a post, the Instagram like button allows users to double-tap to indicate the like of a post. If they change their minds, users are able to, unlike a post they have previously liked, simply by unselecting the heart symbol. Since the beginning, Instagram has allowed its users to please measures of popularity and successes through its like button.   Though this creates difficulty in today's influencer culture, because of the impact this is having on the mental health and well-being of today's users, we may start to see some changes with these features in the near future. 

Instagram has initiated a trial period for certain users outside of the U.S. These users have had the number of likes reached on other individuals' posts removed. The desire to obtain a select number of likes had led users to… 

  • Crave the platform’s visual and social rewards. People will opt to post something that will receive positive feedback from their followers versus posting content that makes them happy. Younger individuals are more vulnerable to the app’s social reward system due to the sway of influencers. An influencer is someone who uses their platform of numerous followers to persuade others to agree with their brand.
  • Instagram likes are used to compare others on the popularity scale. On and offline users with a higher number of followers are treated differently than users with a lower number of followers. People tend to like posts with more likes versus posts with a lower number of likes. 
  • For many students, the like button leads to increased anxiety with the stress of wanting more likes, or not knowing how many likes you have.  Users desire a sense of social acceptance that comes with higher numbers of likes and post engagement.  The features are highly addictive in nature, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for today's youth to separate themselves from their devices when constantly feeling pulled to check in on the status of posts. 

When our social media habits and activities begin to have a negative impact on our overall emotional well-being, SGS believes users should be given the ability to turn off the functionality of the likes.   Especially for younger generations, starting social media without the likes option could be a huge long-term benefit.  By removing the Instagram like button, we could lessen the anxiety that current students face and boost our self-esteem by eliminating the need to compare ourselves to others.   Until then, here are some resources to protect your mental health on Instagram.