Goodbye, Instagram Likes!

Social Media

There’s been a small uproar in the Instagram community lately, have you heard?

Starting in May, Instagram began removing the number of likes from all posts for users in certain countries – Australia being one of them. The plan is to see how this “test” goes and then potentially roll it out to ALL Instagram users, not just from select countries.

No more likes? Well, not quite: likes still exist, and you can like Instagram posts just as you always have. The only difference is that posts no longer show how many people have liked it – instead, it will say “Liked by @sampleuserhere and others”.

Say whaaaaaaaat?

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Don’t worry, the likes are still being counted – in fact, you still have access to the number of likes on each of your posts, but no one else (in Australia and the other countries that are part of the test) can see it.

Why Is Instagram Hiding Likes?

Why would Instagram suddenly decide to limit visibility of likes? Well, the official reason has to do with mental health: to “reduce the potential harm ‘validation culture’ is having on young people”, so that “followers focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.”

Well that’s fair enough. It’s safe to say that many users get caught up in the comparison game, comparing their likes and follower count to those of their friends, acquaintances, and even celebrities. Some of them might feel bad about themselves if their numbers don’t seem to match up to others’ – and in more extreme cases, it’s conceivable that it might contribute to depression and other mental health issues.

BUT. Is it Instagram’s responsibility to care for other peoples’ mental health?  Surely not. I mean, it’s a nice touch to say you want users to feel more comfortable about sharing their own life and story, but is hiding the like count really going to make a massive difference?

It’s a hard thing to prove, so it’ll be interesting to see how Instagram interprets the results of their “test”.

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…Or Is There Another Reason?

Instagram’s received plenty of flack since announcing this initiative, namely in the form of contrarians claiming that it must be more about the money than about mental health.

One theory is that Instagram has hidden likes so that small businesses will end up spending more on Instagram ads. Assuming that “businesses with a high level of social proof will receive a higher number of sales,” small businesses may be more likely to advertise on Instagram without worrying that no one will click their ad because has a small number of likes. Now, no one will know that the ad hasn’t gotten much engagement – and this will no longer be a reason to *not* click on the ad.

In other words, hiding likes may actually generate more revenue for Instagram because small businesses will likely start spending more on Instagram ads.

What do you think?

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