INSTAGRAM & YOUTH: LIKES, MEMES & PRESSURE

HIDDEN LIKES: A WELCOME CHANGE?

“I stopped caring, basically, about likes” - Emil, 17 

Billions of ‘likes’ are actioned a day on Instagram. The obsession with social media validation is a key concern for the Instagram platform and young people. This month, the platform announced that it is expanding its trial to hide like counts and video views in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri said hiding like counts is one way to make the social network “a less pressurized environment.” The goal is to help people “focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.” Now, users in test countries can still see the number of likes their posts get privately. Everyone else can just see some names of accounts who interacted with the post.  

Young people are embracing this refreshing change. While some still find it hard to imagine Instagram without the likes long-term, others see it as a helpful and welcome change - an essential transition for future-proofing the platforms function as a tool for interconnectivity.

On a personal level, I welcome the change and think it’s really good. Users won’t feel as under pressure to post ‘Instagrammable’ content - I think people will post more normal day to day content because they aren’t looking for likes or getting that instant gratification. I’ve actually noticed myself not liking and engagement as much now, just scrolling through. ” Sarah, Social and Digital Manager, Thinkhouse

“I think it's great that Instagram is recognizing this issue and taking a step to attempt to fix it. However, I firmly believe there is still a long, long, long way to go in order to undo the damage on teen self-esteem inflicted by the media.”  Just Jane Blogger

One young Berliner also commented on this saying “I know some people that have even stopped using Instagram as part of their therapy.” However, for advertisers and marketeers, the trial brings with it hints of limitations for brands and influencers.

Right now, people post more often in their Instagram Stories because it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s more authentic and in the moment. With this ‘like count’ test, it seems like Instagram are strategically trying to get people to post more on their grid or feed. Content doesn’t have to be as perfected when ‘like counts’ are out of the picture. It'll be interesting to see if this change has an effect on brands and influencers and how they evaluate success. It's something that we'll be monitoring and reporting onSarah, Social and Digital Manager, Thinkhouse

Businesses on Instagram will have to be more creative in analysing data and success - they’ll be forced to go deeper into deciphering what’s actually working, rather than simply looking to likes.

THE MEME CULTURE BATTLEGROUND

According to a statistic provided by Instagram, meme content gets shared seven times more than non-meme content on the app. More meme accounts than ever are monetizing, and memes have become the default way many young people consume news information on the platform.” The Atlantic

Memes are a huge part of online culture and language for young people all over the world. Many young people talk about going on Instagram just to check out memes. The word meme was defined by Richard Dawkins as an element of a culture or behaviour passed from one individual to another. Essentially they take the form of a photo or video accompanied by plain text that shows the photo or video from a new angle. A good meme has the capacity to capture the entire thought of a nation with simply a photo and copy. 

Young people consume news through memes these days. It’s a brilliant format for being reactive. It’s super quick, timely and relevant. It also has the added bonus of driving engagement and conversation - you find people tag their friends a lot in the comments. We find now that we have to create content for social media that includes ‘overlay’ copy ON the creative. A huge reason for this is meme culture - people aren’t looking at the social post captions as closely.” Sarah, Social and Digital Manager, Thinkhouse

Likely inspired by the success of more ‘Lo-Fi’ meme accounts, more and more content creators, like Sam McAllister, are creating eye-catching creative content using creative text overlays.

Of course, because of their popularity, savvy internet commentators have seen the monetary potential of capitalizing on meme culture. This is so huge, Instagram is trying to monitor it. On July 26, Instagram wiped more than 142 memers’ accounts, with no explanation as part of a purge. A spokesperson for Instagram told The Atlantic, “These accounts were disabled following violations of our policies, including attempted abuse of our internal processes.” The main issue, it seems, was that the account owners (often young teenagers) were taking memes from other platforms, posting them on IG, and not crediting the source. If the key to a good meme is originality, it seems that Instagram’s cull is grounded in reflecting this value back to its users - by demanding them put more emphasis on original content. 

However, it seems that many creators did not believe they were breaking any platform violations. Consequently, there’s ‘a war’ brewing between meme communities and Instagram the platform. Now, Instagram seem to be looking to make peace and are looking to hire a ‘meme liaison’ to help the platform connect more deeply with these young meme communities and understand them better.

BRAND TAKEOUTS 

The Instagram platform and its users agree on one thing; social media still has a long way to go in order to create a safer online space for everyone. Open and experimental mindsets are needed for this. 

While a lot of Instagram is about fun and friendship, young people put so much time and effort into their accounts, so they are taken pretty seriously. To be credible in this shared space, we need to think ‘people-first’ and take it seriously too.

Youth audiences expectations are constantly evolving on the search for more positive experiences. How could you create a better online experience via your content? 

Mixed-media content is becoming more and more effective on social platforms (and not just on Stories). Combining words and text with photography and film is a simple way to get a message across to a young audience - when done in the right tone and in a creative way.