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The Commodification of Instagram Likes and its Impact on Mental Health.
 Mental Health Awareness Month is coming to an end and as someone that lives with depression, anxiety, C-PTSD, and is active on social media, I felt it was important for me to join this conversation. A study was published by Clinical Psychological Science which reveals the rise in suicide rates and depression being linked to heavy media consumption. Social media is extremely prevalent in our lives more than ever before and the effects of it are only now being seen.

As we all know, Instagram is test running removing the visibility of likes to help with the negative comparison young people are doing to each other (which isn’t really why they’re doing it). The photographer Treschelle Gibson of Suppressed Intuition came up with this genius concept that sheds light on the dark side of social media of seeking validation through others. We thought it would be powerful for us to add a bit of conversation around the concept:
What made you want to do this concept?
We are growing up in an era where social media has the ability to have a profound impact on our sense of self. The concept of this shoot is relatable to so much of my audience including myself. The timing of the project was also coordinated with Instagram testing out the new feature, or lack there of, having others be able to see how many likes you’ve received.

How has the commodification of likes impacted you personally?
 I myself have both a personal and a business account on Instagram. On my personal account, especially when posting selfies I have found myself either feeling like my beauty is being validated if I have a lot of likes, or that I’m not as physically attractive if I don’t get as many likes as in the past. On my business account depending on the number of likes I receive I sometimes question whether my work is good enough.

Why do you think we seek validation from external sources?
I think we seek external validation because we are placing our lives on a platform where it is easy for the world to judge and critique us. We then become vulnerable to the opinions of others as our insecurities are up for display. At the end of the day humans want to be liked and loved. If others say they like us, we tend to be more inclined to like ourselves. This is related to the Looking Glass Self Theory.

*Looking Glass Self Theory: Individuals develop and base their self-concept by observing how they are perceived by others. “Using social interaction as a type of “mirror,” people use the judgments they receive from others to measure their own worth, values, and behaviour”.

Do you think this change for IG is really going to make an impact on Mental Health?
I believe the likes experiment on IG is taking a step towards bettering our mental health. Personally, I still like to check the number of likes I receive on my business account to learn about the analytics of my target audience. However, on my personal account I feel less pressured to have a certain amount of likes and therefore post more freely.

Businesses can commodify “likes” all they want, but it’s important for us, as individuals, to separate from that mentality. Our lives, our personal value and how we view ourselves are worth more than a virtual "like" on instagram. Most of the time, people don’t even take a second to really look at your post - if it is aestechially pleasing to the eye that’s all that matters. I'm not sure whether or not this is going to positively impact the mental health of users, but I do think it may aid a bit.

Likes are a temporary fix to mask our insecurities and the need for approval is based on fear. Stop being scared of what others will think of you and just be true to yourself. Live out your true potential and experience freedom from the comparison game. Tap into your inner being and let it be free, let yourself be free. Don’t worry about what other people think, don’t worry about how many likes you get on a photo. None of that stuff matters, the only thing that really truly matters is your happiness and nobody else has control over that but you. This is why it’s important to base your worth on what really matters...YOU, and only you. You are powerful and capable of accomplishing your wildest dreams. You are worthy of living the best life you can possibly live. You deserve the world, even though sometimes you feel you’re unworthy of it. Each day is an opportunity for you to reclaim your worth and build the confidence within.

Remember social media is only highlights. People typically just show their best moments, not their worst. You can’t accurately compare your life to someone else's when you’re only seeing a glimpse into the reality of their sitation. You also can’t let other people’s opinions of you have a major influence on your life, behaviours, and emotions. They don’t even really know you, the real you...the you that you don’t share on all of these social media platforms. The true, authentic y o u. So why are you giving them that kind of power. Who you A R E should never be moved, or negatively impacted by who someone thinks you are. I know this is all easier said than done, but I’ve done it and I know it helps a bit. You can’t equate your value on Instagram through likes because the environment holds a high value to some really trash content and not quality stuff anyways. Just remember that people liking things don’t even hold value in them, they’re literally just swiping and liking.

Take a break from social media. Set aside time everyday to connect, meditate, breathe and manifest. Reflect on who you are and who you want to be, so that you can base your value solely on that. Try not to compare yourself to others on Instagram and just focus on your goals, opportunities and growth. Deepen the love that you have for yourself, so that your internal foundation cannot be shaken.

Lesley ✌🏽

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