While Instagram tests the elimination of “likes” on it’s platform, Virginia Tech social media experts offer insights on how this change may impact mental health and how consumers interact with brands. 

Mike Horning, assistant professor of multimedia journalism applauds efforts to look at how social media impacts mental health but cautions against “one-off solutions for both adults and children.” Marketing professor, Donna Wertalik views this change as a social experiment with the potential to help brands “build deeper connections with consumers.”

Quoting Horning

  • “I do think though that social media companies are wise to think about the impact of these engagement metrics on youth who are more generally susceptible to these kinds of social pressures. The problem these companies seem to face is that they are attempting to create one-off solutions for both adults and children.”

  • “Research has shown that social media can be a positive force to help people who feel isolated find social networks that they would not normally find in their local communities.”

  • “I'd say that the research on the influence of engagement metrics is varied. Most of the research suggests that social media is more of a contributor to depression in certain individuals than a cause of depression for everyone. Other research has shown that social media can be a positive force to help people who feel isolated find social networks that they would not normally find in their local communities.”

Quoting Wertalik

  • “If it proves to be unsuccessful, they will have made buzz and possibly highlighted the importance of this feature. If it works well, Instagram is too smart of a company not to scale and can analyze other countries who who have effectively launched this and worked through the kinks. Instagram needs to ensure it approaches with best practices in mind for brands to soar.”

  • “This is the first of many steps to build deeper connections with consumers through brand. I see many platforms engaging more with AR and VR, as well as gaming to have their consumers tied to the brand and engage in manners that provide connection and a break from the online world.”

  • “Short term, any news of this scale and impact to such a prominent feature will cause unrest, concern and assessment of brand spend and using this platform moving forward.  But, if you view it the way it is intended, it really has a deeper focus, which is to change culture for the next generational cohorts and to understand how this impacts building of a community, versus alienating many.”

About Horning

Mike Horning is an assistant professor of multimedia journalism in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Department of Communication at Virginia Tech. His research examines how communications technologies impact social attitudes and behaviors. Horning’s current research focuses on the impact of fake news and misinformation on our democratic processes. More here. His expertise has featured in The Hill, Sinclair Broadcast Group and in a number of other media outlets. 

About Wertalik

Donna Wertalik is a marketing professor the Pamplin College of Business and the Director of marketing strategy and analytics for the college. Her research includes chronicling social media and networking on college campuses today.  Her expertise has been featured in Bloomberg and the New York Times

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- Written by Sarah Newman