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Instagram Tests Hiding Likes in Canada

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  • Instagram will test hiding like counts from photos and videos in an effort to get users to focus on content rather than likes.
  • The test will begin this week and will only be rolled out in Canada.
  • The like feature is a core element of the platform, but many feel that it has a negative impact on both the quality of the content and users’ mental health.

Hiding Likes

Instagram said Tuesday that it plans to test a new feature that will hide users’ public like counts on videos and photos.

At its F8 developer conference, the Facebook-owned company said the test will begin this week and will only be rolled out in Canada for now. The likes will be hidden in the feed, permalinked pages, and on profiles.

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said, “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram, and spend a bit more time connecting with the people they care about.”

Source: Instagram

Changes Expected

Many had suspected that this test might be on its way. In April, Code hunter Jane Wong, a Hong Kong-based woman who searches for unreleased features in popular apps, published screenshots of the test.

At that time a spokesperson for Instagram denied rumors of the test saying, “We’re not testing this at the moment, but exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is something we’re always thinking about.”

The new move is also similar to one rolled out late last year. In November, the company announced that they were testing profile designs that de-emphasized follower counts by placing them off-center and in a smaller font.

Instagram Pressure

Experts will be interested to see the impact this change has on the content as well as the perception of the platform. While the like feature can be encouraging to users who enjoy seeing their content perform well, the metric has been understood by some as a way to track popularity and measure self-worth.

Social media users now often chase likes, which some argue has led to an increase in less interesting, but more “likable,” content. Some users have even gone so far as to pay for likes and followers to keep up a popular persona. Along with that, the chase for likes has also been linked to damaging perceptions of one’s self, leading to the rise of highly edited photos.

According to a 2017 report from the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK, Instagram is the most detrimental social networking app for young people’s mental health. Matt Keracher, the author of the report, said that the app draws women to “compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and Photoshopped versions of reality.”

Others have noted that Instagram’s current culture has created pressure to curate posts that will look cohesive on one’s profile and get the most attention. The trend of needing “instagramable” photos that will perform well has even inspired the creation of popular photo spots and social media friendly restaurants.

It’s unclear if the company will roll out the test in other locations as of now. The feature is such a core component of the app and it’s brand, that any changes to could fundamentaly change the platform as we know it.

While this test only hides the like feature, many wonder if a total removal of it is out of the question. If rolled out more broadly, there is also concern that hiding and potentially removing likes could also change the influencer marketing industry and social media marketing in general.

However many feel that a total removal is unlikely as the feature is important in helping inform the algorithm that decides which posts, ads, and creators users might want to see.

Could Twitter Be Next?

Other social networks, such as Twitter have also seemed open to the idea of making likes and follower counts less prominent on the platform.

On stage at the TED conference in April, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey discussed what he would do differently if he were to invent Twitter all over again. “I don’t think I would create ‘likes’ in the first place,” Dorsey said, adding that he also wouldn’t make the follower count as prominent.

Twitter’s prototype app, twttr, which is designed for testing new features, currently explores this idea as it lets people read tweets in a tighter design without being distracted by likes and retweets if they wish to try it.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (CNN) (Fortune)

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Walmart Ends E-Cigarette Sales

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  • Walmart announced its plans to stop selling e-cigarettes on Friday.
  • The company said it made its decision in light of the “uncertainty” regarding the products on local and federal levels.
  • Federal health officials have growing concerns about the products and have potentially linked over 500 illnesses and eight deaths to them.

Walmart Ends E-Cigarette Sales

Walmart plans to end its sale of e-cigarettes due to ongoing concerns about the products.

“Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products at all Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. locations,” the company said Friday in a confirmed internal memo obtained by CNBC.

National Concerns About E-Cigarettes

This decision comes as both New York and Michigan have banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. President Donald Trump has also suggested his interest in banning flavored products. 

Recently, federal health officials have become increasingly concerned about their potential link to serious illnesses. They investigating 530 cases of people who have contracted vaping related illnesses. Eight people have died from diseases believed to be related to vaping since August. 

This is not the first decision of this sort the company has made this year. Back in May, Walmart said it would raise its minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 to prevent possible sales to minors.

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (Fox Business) (Engadget)

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School Shooting-Themed Hoodies Slammed by Gun Violence Victims

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  • A fashion brand faced criticism for designing hoodies that featured bullet holes along with the names of schools that were sites of some of the nation’s deadliest school shootings. 
  • Bstroy, a streetwear line known for rebellious designs, said it wanted to make a bold statement about gun violence “while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes.”
  • While the hoodies were just created for their New York fashion show, the designers are now considering selling the sweatshirts despite widespread outrage from victims.

School Shooting Sweatshirts 

A fashion brand known as Bstroy sparked outrage on social media after designing school shooting-themed hoodies for a show during New York Fashion Week.

The brand’s latest collection, designed by Brick Owens and Duey Catorze, featured distressed hoodies with the names of schools that were all impacted by gun violence and even included bullet hole details throughout each piece.  

The schools included in the show were Stoneman Douglas, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine, all sites of some of the nation’s deadliest school shootings. 

Backlash From Victims 

Photos from the runway posted to Instagram over the weekend were quickly met with a wave of backlash from commenters who identified themselves as shooting survivors and friends or relatives of gun violence victims. 

Comments below Instagram images posted to Bstroy and Owens’ accounts.

A spokesperson for the Vicky Soto Memorial Fund, which was created after teacher Victoria Soto was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, took to Twitter to call the designs “absolutely horrific.”

“A company is [making] light of our pain and other’s pain for fashion,” she continued. “Selling sweatshirts with our name and bullet holes. Unbelievable.”

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jamie died during the Stoneman Douglas shooting also tweeted, “This has me so upset. If any of my followers no anybody involved with this clothing line, please ask them to stop it immediately.”

Shawn Sherlock, the aunt of another Stoneman Douglas victim named Gina Rose Montalto, said the company “should be ashamed of taking advantage of [her niece’s] death to make money.”

More About Bstroy

Bstroy, which describes itself as a “Neo-Native Menswear Design House,” was featured in a New York Times piece published last week about the next generation of high-end streetwear. The Times specifically pointed to the brand’s rebellious takes on classic designs.

They’re probably most well known for their double-edge jeans, which essentially look like two pairs of jeans stitched together at the ankle holes, as well as their Nike shoes dipped in concrete. 

@bstroy.us
Source: Theface.com

According to the paper, the brand has also designed “graphic T-shirts that nod to preppy interests like tennis and fencing, but with the sports gear replaced by guns.”

@bstroy.us

“We are making violent statements,” one designer told The Times. “That’s for you to know who we are, so we can have a voice in the market. But eventually that voice will say things that everyone can wear.”

Bstroy’s Response 

Late Tuesday, Owens posted a handout from the show on Instagram that read: “Sometimes life can be painfully ironic. Like the irony of dying violently in a place you considered to be a safe, controlled environment, like school. We are reminded all the time of life’s fragility, shortness, and unpredictability yet we are also reminded of its infinite potential.”

In an email sent to the Today show, Owens explained that he and Catorze were trying to make a bold statement. “We wanted to make a comment on gun violence and the type of gun violence that needs preventative attention and what its origins are, while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes,” the designer wrote.

“Also built into the device is the fact that our image as young, black males has not been traditionally awarded credit for introducing avant-garde ideas. So many people have assumed our message to be lazy just because of what they’ve been taught about black men. These hoodies were made with all of these intentions in mind, and to explore all of these societal issues. Not just the surface layer of gun violence in schools but also the different ways that we relate to each other and the dated ideas that still shape the assumptions we make about each other,” he wrote.

The designers also spoke to The Cut about the response to the collection and said, “People get the opportunity to form their opinions before they get all the information and here we see the internal desire of society rear its head.” 

“People seem to want to release hateful energy as a default,” they added. 

The designers then explained that they are now considering whether or not to put the hoodies up for sale, saying: “The hoodies have only been shown not sold and the school shooting hoodies were initially intended to be just for the show and not to sell but that may change now.”

The backlash surrounding the designs comes just as the nonprofit organization Sandy Hook Promise released an intense video about gun violence in schools. 

See what others are saying: (The Cut) (The Washington Post) (Today)

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Nearly 50,000 Workers Strike Against General Motors

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  • GM Employees are striking for the second day after contract negotiations between their union and company did not meet their demands. 
  • GM did give an offer after negotiations, but it was not satisfactory to the nearly 50,000 employees, who are asking for higher wages, better healthcare, a share of profits, job security, and more.
  • Many of the employees say they will commit to the strike until the company meets their requirements, however, others are concerned about living off the estimated $250 of weekly assistance pay while the strike carries on.

Employees Strike

As General Motors and the United Automobile Workers union resume negotiations, GM employees are entering their second day of nationwide strikes.

Fair wages, affordable healthcare, fairer profit shares, job security, and a path to permanent employment for temps are all on the list of demands for the close to 50,000 GM workers striking throughout nine states today. This is the first strike in the U.S. auto industry since 2007, which was also led by GM workers. Striking began Sunday at midnight after a weekend of failed negotiations between GM and UAW. 

Their 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement expired Saturday night, but the UAW declined to extend it. After negotiations ended, the UAW’s Vice President, Terry Dittes released a statement standing by his commitment to worker’s needs. 

“While we are fighting for better wages, affordable quality health care, and job security, GM refuses to put hard-working Americans ahead of their record profits of $35 billion in North America over the last three years,” he said. “We are united in our efforts to get an agreement our members and their families deserve.”

GM extended an offer to its employees that included over $7 billion in investments and 5,400 jobs. The deal also included wage or lump sum increases for every year of the four-year contract, an improved profit-sharing formula, and additional forms of health benefits.

Employees rejected that offer and went forward with their strike after this proposal, forcing GM to resume negotiations with UAW on Monday. 

“Our goal remains to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our business,” GM said in a statement announcing the continued talks. 

Potential Consequences of Strike

The strike does not come without potential consequences, not just for GM, but for the employees as well. Reports say GM could lose up to $90 million a day during the strike, but employees also stand to lose a lot. 

According to a Fox Business report, GM employees will have to wait 15 days to receive their assistance pay, which comes out to $250 a week. This barely covers rent in Detroit, a city that hosts many employees of the company. 

One Detroit-area employee, Patricia Brown, told the outlet that one of her main fears is “that we might be here for a while… and we can’t make it on $250 a week. You know, GM might not want to budge. So I’m just here trying to prove a point, that’s it.”

Still, some see the risk to be worth the reward. Ray Carter-Wilson, a single father also striking in the Detroit area told CNN he is comfortable striking for a long time as long as it all works out. 

“I understand the difficulty of the negotiations and the importance of them,” he said. “This being a lengthy strike, I’m fine with it as long as everything gets ironed out and is fair for everyone.” 

Politicians Support Strike

Strikers also have support from prominent public officials. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) said she was “inspired” by the workers. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also pointed out the wage inequality at the company while adding that he stood with the strike. 

See what others are saying: (Fox Business) (CNN) (The Hill)

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