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Grades 6-8

Prompt for Argument Writing

In many countries and some areas in the United States, Instagram has removed the ​LIKE
counting button--​which means you can no longer see how many likes someone else’s photo gets,
but you can still see your own.​ ​Many of the other social media platforms are also considering
removing the like counting feature or getting rid of likes altogether. However, they have decided
they would like teenager input before making the change.

Over the next couple of periods, you’ll encounter multiple texts that will provide you with
information and claims about the pros and cons of social media likes. It will be up to you to
really analyze the information and ideas so that you can state your own claim and justify it, using
researched evidence. For each text, you’ll have a chance to take notes.

Finally, write a well-developed essay, explaining your thinking.

For your essay, consider the question, should all social media apps remove the like counting
feature? The texts you will read give multiple positions around the topic of social media likes.
Take a position on the topic and be sure to use evidence from the texts, as well as your own
knowledge, to support and develop your thinking.

Remember, a strong and effective piece of argument writing:


● Takes the audience into account
● Has a clear introduction
● States a focus/position statement clearly, precisely, and thoughtfully
● Uses specific evidence from the text(s) to support and develop the position, and explains
that evidence logically
● Takes into account what people who disagree with you might think and responds
● Concludes effectively
● Uses precise language
● Shows control over conventions

You will have two class periods to complete this reading/thinking/writing task. Pre-reading
(teacher support) and pre-writing will take place the first day, and independent writing will take
place the second day. You will submit a single draft of the letter. Be sure to take time to plan
your writing before you begin work. When you have finished, be sure to proofread.
Should Instagram Get Rid of Likes?

The number of people who like your posts can lift your spirits—or drag them down. Could
eliminating likes help end that emotional roller coaster?
JANUARY 27, 2020​ By Kathy Wilmore

After sorting through dozens of selfies, you pick just the right one and post it on Instagram.
When you check back a few minutes later, you’re excited to see that it already has 11 likes.

But then you notice that a selfie your friend just posted already has 50 likes. You know you
shouldn’t compare yourself with your classmate, but you can’t help it. You start to wonder
whether your photos would get more likes if you were to change your hair or wear different
clothes.

Instagram is hugely popular, especially among teens. For many users, seeing what other people
are posting—and liking their pictures—is a pleasure. But for other users, the constant pressure to
get a ton of likes can hurt their self-confidence or make them feel anxious and depressed.

That is a big reason officials at Instagram are considering hiding like counts (the number of likes
an image receives) from public view. Only the person who posts an image would be able to see
how many likes it gets. The company is currently testing this format with some users worldwide.

“We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive so you can
focus on sharing the things you love,” says Mia Garlick, a company executive.

But would hiding like counts—or dropping them altogether—really help users feel better about
themselves? Teens are divided over the issue.
SOURCES: Instagram Info Center, Pew Research Center, SimilarWeb
Too Stressful
Supporters of getting rid of likes say that for too many Instagram users, the pursuit of likes is
their sole motivation for posting. For some kids, that has made using the app incredibly stressful.
Instead of thinking “Hey, I like this pic. I think I’ll share it,” they wonder “How many likes will
this​ get?” That kind of focus on validation from others can be especially damaging for young
people, experts say.

Claire Blose, 18, of Middletown, New Jersey, can relate. “I enjoy posting photos on Instagram,”
she says. “But being so preoccupied with getting likes can’t be good for my mental health.”

Not getting enough likes can hurt teens’ confidence and self-esteem.

Studies have linked heavy use of social media—especially Instagram and Snapchat—to
depression, anxiety, loneliness, and other mental health issues among teens. People who applaud
ditching likes say doing so would help get Instagram back to what it ​should​ be—a way to
connect with family and friends—instead of a nonstop popularity contest.
If Instagram were to get rid of likes, says Claire, “People might post photos that are meaningful
to them, instead of only posting photos they think will get the widest approval.”

Show of Support

But other people point out that likes can be a great way to promote positivity and to show friends
that you support them.

Besides, they say, many people are on Instagram to express their creative side—and get noticed.
“The platform is great for showcasing artistic skills like photography or singing,” says Remy
Crush, 15, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Having a high like count on your posts can help your creative work get noticed—and even lead
to an audition, a gallery exhibit, or a job offer.

Likes are a great way to connect with friends and encourage each other’s creativity.

If Instagram ​really​ wants to help prevent hurt feelings and low self-esteem, some people say,
why not get rid of the comments section? Snarky or cruel remarks about something you cared
about enough to post can be far more painful than getting too few likes.

“Maybe we should start by fixing an aspect of the app that’s truly detrimental,” says Remy,
“rather than getting rid of a feature many users actually like.”
How removing ‘likes’ from Instagram could affect our mental
health
Science​ Nov 25, 2019 4:38 PM EST
Today, 500 million people will check their Instagram. And many will keep checking, and
checking and checking because humans seem to crave the platform’s visual and social rewards.

But excessive social media use can be problematic, leading to ​sleep disruption, productivity loss
and ​interpersonal conflicts​. While “social media addiction” remains a highly contested term in
the scientific community, the similarities between online interactions and addictive behaviors are
raising concerns.

That’s why Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has started testing out a new policy to
remove visible likes from the platform. While users could previously see how many likes others
had received on their posts, now they will only see the likes on their own photos.

Instagram first started hiding likes in Canada back in May, and has expanded the trials to Ireland,
Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand. The platform started testing removing likes in
the U.S. in November.

But while the loss of likes might improve mental well-being, that little heart-shaped button has
become a profitable tool for influencers, with ​3.7 million brand-sponsored posts made on the
platform in 2018​. Influencers use likes as a means of attracting advertisers, and now they will
have to recalibrate how they do business.

But, Instagram is making this change, even if it hurts business. CEO Adam Mosseri, explained
recently at the ​Wired25 Summit​ that anxiety and social pressures that come from the app “are
becoming more acute, particularly with young people, particularly in a mobile-first world.”
Instagram pointed to these statements after PBS NewsHour contacted the company for an
interview for this story.
Here’s how the experts think removing the like button could affect users’ brains and influencers’
clout.

Why people get so attached to social media

When we get a notification that one of our social media posts has received some type of
interaction — whether that’s a like, comment or share — it’s uplifting.

“We’re hardwired to find social interactions rewarding,” said Dar Meshi, a cognitive
neuroscientist at Michigan State University.

This social reward system ​activates ​the ventral striatum, a part of the brain that focuses on
decision making and reward-related behavior. It’s the same area that’s fired up when people
gamble, enjoy a slice of cake or have sex, and cognitive neurologist Ofir Turel thinks this is why
checking social media is so enticing.

“Every time we think about it or see someone else using social media, our brains are trained that
social media is an enjoyable activity,” said Turel, who works in the Department of Information
Systems and Decision Sciences at California State University Fullerton.

Meshi described these online engagements as pleasurable social experiences, just like when a
listener nods their head in agreement when you’re speaking or someone gives you a compliment.

Imagine if every time you go to a bank, you get your balance, but you also see the balance
of other people. It will cause most people to feel annoyed or dissatisfied with what they
have…

— Ofir Turel, cognitive neurologist

Another attractive feature of social media is that when we post, we don’t know how many likes
we’ll get and when we’ll get them. Turel said because of our fear of missing out, we tend to
check social media more frequently because we don’t know when this new information will
appear.

Behavioral psychologists B. F. Skinner and Charles Ferster ​uncovered this habit decades ago​ —
in pigeons. They randomized when the birds would receive rewards after pressing a button, and
found that pigeons would press the button thousands of times in hopes of receiving a reward.
Turel compared the pigeons’ compulsive behavior with humans persistently checking social
media apps.

“Sounds crazy, right?” Turel said. “But we as humans are not very different from that.”

Turel believes that younger Instagrammers are more tempted by social media’s reward system
because of brain development. In his words, the brain’s reward systems develop very quickly and
mature at a young age, he said, but the mental regions that manage self control don’t finish
developing until later on. This may lead to excessive social media use, Turel said.

“They have a very mature accelerator, but the brake system is not mature yet,” Turel said. “For
example, they go on social media and they want to see one video, and they’re sucked in. Two
hours later, they realize they’ve watched 200 cat videos.”

Does this ever count as addiction?

It’s not so simple.

Although it may not be as severe as well-researched types of addiction, Meshi said repeatedly
checking social media for online interactions still activates the brain’s reward system ​similarly to
other addictive behaviors​, like a gambler pulling the lever at a slot machine.

But there are several key distinctions between problematic social media use and a substance
addiction.
Compared to the consequences of drug addiction, which can completely destabilize a drug user’s
life, leading even to criminal behavior, Meshi and Turel agreed that the negative effects from
social media use are minor.

Additionally, Turel said that withdrawal symptoms differentiated social media overuse from
other types of addiction. Disconnecting from social media may cause irritability, but addiction
withdrawal symptoms can be physical and severe, like sweating and shaking.

How will influencers cope with the changes?

Though the loss of the like button might not make a massive difference for users with smaller
followings — say, under 1,000 followers — Evan Asano, founder of the influencer marketing
agency Mediakix, said the change could alter how influencers do business.

“Likes have been the standard of measurement up until now” Asano said. “It’s an easy standard
to measure engagement.”

When brands select influencers to market products, they pay attention to the influencer’s
engagement rate, or ratio of likes to followers. Chances are, the more the audience engages with
an influencer’s post, the more valuable the influencer is for brands.

Asano said the industry will need to find a new metric for gauging influencers’ worth, which
could be comments, but argued the new policy might not have a huge effect. It might simply
change how advertisers and agencies gather metrics. For example, Mediakix can independently
track its influencer business numbers in a campaign database.

“Instagram is growing like crazy still,” Asano said. “It’s great having people express themselves
rather than posting the same type of photo, because that’s the one that gets the most likes.”

So what’s the takeaway?


Under the new policy, likes would no longer be visible to others. Only the profile owner would
be able to see like counts on their own photos.

“The idea is to depressurize Instagram,” Instagram’s Mosseri said. “We’re trying to reduce
anxiety, we’re trying to reduce social comparisons.”

As it turns out, Turel said that losing the ability to see how many likes your fellow ‘grammers
get could greatly impact how we use the app. By removing likes, Instagram also takes away
reference points for users to compare their numbers to others.

Turel believes this could make Instagram a safer environment; ​one Michigan State University
study​ published earlier this year found that excessive Facebook users were more likely to make
riskier decisions — in this case, gambling and with losing more money in a simulation.

“Imagine if every time you go to a bank, you get your balance, but you also see the balance of
other people,” Turel said. “It will cause most people to feel annoyed or dissatisfied with what
they have, and that would prompt them to engage in riskier behaviors.”
What’s not to like? Instagram’s trial to hide the number of ‘likes’ could save users’
self-esteem
July 18, 2019 11.41pm EDT

Instagram is running a social media experiment in Australia and elsewhere to see what happens
when it hides the number of likes on photos and other posts.

If you have an Instagram account, you’ll get to see the numbers but your followers won’t – at
least, not automatically. They will be able to click and see who liked your post, but will have to
count the list of names themselves.

The trial is taking place right now in ​six countries​: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan
and New Zealand. Canada has just finished its trial.

It’s a bold move by Instagram, but arguably a necessary one. There is ​growing concern​ about the
effect of social media on young people’s ​mental health and self–esteem​.

Instagram ​explained​:

We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.

Likes, and their public tallying, have become the heart of Instagram and many other social media
platforms. By hiding them, does Instagram risk devaluing a crucial currency?

Receiving loads of likes can feel like getting a gold star. It’s a public affirmation that you’re
doing good work – a useful bit of quantitative feedback on your photographic skills or creativity.
Under the new trial you’ll still get the gold star, but in private, and without broader recognition.

Nevertheless, the mental health repercussions of counting likes cannot be ignored. The design of
social media promotes social comparison. You don’t have to spend long on Instagram to find a
plethora of people who are evidently better-looking, more successful, and more glamorous than
you.

As a result, young people can be left feeling inadequate and unworthy. Teens ​report​ that social
media makes them feel closer to friends (78%), more informed (49%), and connected to family
(42%). Yet many teens also report feeling pressure to always show the best versions of
themselves (15%), overloaded with information (10%), overwhelmed (9%), or the dreaded “fear
of missing out” (9%). These positive and negative reactions can ​see-saw​, depending on a
person’s particular mindset at the time.

Will comments become the new likes?

Without a public tally of likes, it is likely that comments will become an even stronger indicator
of how people are interacting with a particular Instagram post.

Of course, comments can consist of anything from an emoji to an essay, and are therefore much
more varied and adaptable than likes. Yet they can still affect users’ emotions and self-worth,
particularly because (unlike likes), comments can be negative as well as positive.

The reaction among Australian Instagram users has so far been mixed. Many are disgruntled
about the change, feel manipulated by the platform, and argue that the change will reduce
Instagram’s appeal, particularly among those who use it to support their business.

But others have applauded the move on mental health grounds, while others still have reported
that they are already feeling the difference that the experiment is designed to deliver.

Nevertheless, people could potentially move away from Instagram if they don’t feel it benefits
them in the way they want. This could conceivably leave the market open for new social media
platforms that unabashedly count likes for all to see.

Finally, there is the question of whether this is nothing but a PR stunt by a global mega-brand.
It’s perhaps natural to be sceptical where the social media industry is concerned. But if this is a
genuine move by Instagram to ameliorate the negative mental health effects of social media, then
it’s a valuable experiment, and the results may be very beneficial for some. Let’s hope so.