Updated: Oct 3, 2019
I recently saw a story on the news reference teenagers/young adults who use Instagram. Instagram is apparently a more popular social media platform with young adults than Facebook and other social media apps. As I understand it, Instagram is considering eliminating showing the number of likes a post gets to help curb cyber-bullying. I admit the cyber-bullying issue is still somewhat foreign to me (my kids are grown and gone and I wouldn't know if I was being cyber-bullied even if someone told me), but if by deleting the number of likes helps prevent bullying, I say they should go for it. For the story, the CEO of Instagram was interviewed, and he seemed to be willing to lose revenue and even clients to address this problem. Good on him and Instagram!!
In the story, a cross section of kids who use Instagram participated in a panel discussion. Their ages were 12-18 male and female. While I was impressed with their poise and frankness in discussing this issue, I was stunned and surprised at how important the likes were to them. They were so concerned about the number of likes they got on their pictures that in some cases, most of them said they took up to 50 selfies before they got the right one to post! They felt the "right" picture portrayed them in the light they wanted to be seen and represented their personality and who they really were. It was very apparent that this was extremely important to and for their self-esteem. But the most interesting part of the interview was when they all seemed to care just as much or more about likes from strangers as they did from their friends or people they knew. I was again surprised at how much it meant to them that they were liked by an anonymous entity who may just have randomly clicked the like icon. To me this just proves it is human nature to want to be liked.
I "like" social media and embrace it as a sign of the times we live in. I like the ease it allows us to keep in touch with family and friends. A Facebook/Instagram post (or text) has long replaced mailing a letter. Anyone even remember the last time you wrote a letter and mailed it, or even know the price of a postage stamp? I like connecting with old friends who I have not heard from in ages. It has helped me answer the question of "I wonder whatever happened to him or her?" Social media is also a great way to share good ideas and hidden talents. I know some go overboard (OK waaay overboard) and probably share too much sometimes; but I contend you never know what tidbit of knowledge can inspire or help someone when they see something shared on a social media post. I get it and know that some folks are private and would rather not participate in any form of social media, and that's fine too! It's not for everyone and by no means mandatory.
Like the microwave when you put aluminum in it, social media can cause sparks that could result in a fire! But the good of the microwave far outweighs the potential downside (how else can you pop a perfect bag of popcorn). Cyber-bullies are the aluminum in the microwave, but we should not allow them to taint all the good social media platforms bring to our culture and society as a whole. Social media platforms are here to stay, and we have an entire generation trying to figure out how to navigate these platforms and not lose the ability to communicate and interact face to face (that's the real challenge)! I think social media platforms are an overall positive for our society and the good they can do far outweigh the bad. But like many good innovations, we must understand they can have side effects. With social media platforms we can't allow the negative and the dark elements to control the narrative. Kudos to Instagram for acknowledging the problem and putting their social responsibility ahead of their profit margin for the good of our society.