Will removing ego from online platforms realistically lead to deeper connection and authentic forms of social sharing and expression?
Many lives were transformed in 2010, and I’m not speaking Simon Cowell’s departure from American Idol (though our hearts are bruised). The fateful autumn day Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched Instagram sparked a rapid cultural and communication shift within humanity. And ever since, we’ve become a population addicted to double-tapping our way through online relationships. Try that on for size with your morning coffee.
By we, I’m including me, not an elder millennial, nor a Gen Z’er, my age group and I sit on a blurred line between the landline friendly and hyper-digital. With a few years of smartphone-less adolescence (for which I am grateful), I’ve still been using the app ever since I could drive an automatic vehicle. And in fact, my interpersonal relationships were affected long before Instagram, with MySpace’s top friends’, Facebook profile images, and AOL messenger taking center stage at age 12.
Today, the Instagram app attracts over 1 billion minds a month. Now a worldwide phenomenon, its creators have earned clear business success: a Facebook acquisition in 2012, credit for the emergence of an entirely new ‘influencer’ workforce, status as a pioneer in social marketing, and trillions in revenue. From a social media marketing perspective, the exposure its provided us to connect and relate to other businesses and customers alike is incredible. But, there's a catch...
As conscious marketers, we haven’t forgotten the growing body of published research showing the negative side effects of social media on our minds and souls, particularly pertaining to social comparison, cyberbullying, reduced attention span and ultimately increased levels of anxiety and depression among its users.
Instagram’s leaders couldn’t ignore the statistics either. With CEO Adam Mosseri’s announcement, Instagram is slowly rolling out a “no like” platform in an effort to remove social comparison, and thus promote better relationships and increased health, we’re forced to examine just how detrimental hundreds of ‘double taps’ a day actually is. We’re excited to see the company’s initial attempt to deepen digital connections. Some celebrities and influencers are not, particularly those who earn their living from posts.
Instagram is slowly rolling out a “no like” platform in an effort to remove social comparison, and thus promote better relationships and increased health, and we’re forced to examine just how detrimental hundreds of ‘double taps’ a day actually is.
The sudden shift to change, both voluntary and involuntary, by large social platforms, begets the question: When determining terms of business success at the get-go, are we taking into account all the stakeholders’ best interests? If we’re aligning our business with conscious capitalism principles, hypothetically, yes. And, even with the best intentions, could the first platforms have predicted the negative effects of social networking on individual and societal health?
This act could be the first of a long line of newly defined successes in the social media landscape. And it’s led by demands from the Millennials (hold for applause). Ironically, according to Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd in The 2020 Workplace, the very generation who bypassed the patience and understanding gained from learning a manual transmission, is also the first generation since the 1960’s to start consciously viewing work as a key part of life, not a separate activity that needs to be balanced by play. My generation wants to work to afford the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills, and connect to larger groups, not just fill the bank account. Perhaps in our endless exposure to instant gratification, we’ve learned instant isn’t gratifying at all, and now we crave experiences and in-person connection more than ever.
So we wait and ponder. Will removing ego from online platforms realistically lead to deeper connection and authentic forms of social sharing and expression? Or will removing likes be equivocal to losing our digital wolf pack of leaders and followers, leading to a loss of identity entirely and the demise of the app? While we await systemic change to remedy our discontent, I'll be focusing on my own power as an individual to consciously use social networks, bringing my double tap offscreen to my living, breathing communities.