It was just the other day that I was scrolling through my Instagram account and I reflected on the red hearts on the screen that represent likes. I often ask myself, “What do these likes even mean?” Well, it seems like Instagram and I are on the same page. According to CNN, the social media platform is looking to test out hiding the number of likes a post gets on the social media platform as a way to decrease the competitive pressure that comes along with the platform .
In an attempt to stamp down on competitive pressure on the platform, Instagram now hides likes for “some” users in the United States, which started last week. The Facebook-owned platform had already put this test in place in seven countries including Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand, as reported by CNN.
Is this change absolutely necessary? Not really. Our lives should not rely on social media enough to let the appearance of likes ruin our day. However, this switch is a great test to see what users will post, knowing their content is no longer subjected to the number of likes it gets. Instead, their content can be what they actually want to post. Although CNN did state that posting on Instagram can come with a rush of validation when likes from friends and strangers come pouring in, I wonder if the feeling would be the same if you’re the only one who can see your personal amount of likes.
I also think about famous ‘Instagramers’ with the iconic blue check mark, ones whose posts are sponsored and people who actually get paid by the number of likes and followers their posts reach out to. Will having the likes be private to the user be the end of a social media influencer industry? Or will these sponsored posts and advertising companies still find a way to make the app a career path?
Business Insider reported that celebrities and influencers are at the forefront of those expressing backlash. Celebrity rapper Nicki Minaj took to Twitter stating, “I’m not posting on IG after this week cuz they removing the likes. Hmmmm what should I get into now? Think of all the time I’ll have with my new life.” Business Insider further explained, “Cardi B took to Instagram to protest the feature, arguing that removing likes wouldn’t make Instagram any less toxic because ‘the comments affect more than the likes.’”
As someone who is an average Instagram user, only getting 10-20 comments per post on a good day, I cannot really relate to these celebrities. Cardi B gets millions of comments from strangers all around the world, so it is understandable why this may concern her. This idea though is a great example on how this change could affect users specifically depending on their usage of the platform and follower count.
I am considered an average, small Instagramer, and I feel relieved at the idea that the likes my posts get could be out of an equation. Similarly, CNN reported some users too have so far expressed relief about the move to hide likes. In the future, if this test turns into a permanent property, I see myself as an Instagram user being more open and posting freely, as opposed to waiting for the perfect time to post in hopes that the most users are on the platform and will see it.
It’s a sad and unsettling reality that so much thought goes into one post, but maybe this shift can make Instagram a better and more creative space. In the end, there are going to be users that will strongly object to this potential change and others who won’t sweat it. This of course will be determined mostly by the amount of interaction each user puts into the platform in their everyday lives.
This test and idea can absolutely get Instagram to the better place it wants to be in. This smaller change will transform Instagram as a whole, but will also shift the way the world chooses to use the social media application. As always though, social media users will find a way to adapt and continue to put their best selfie forward.