‘Likes’ are an iconic feature of Instagram, which are often used as an indicator of popularity. However, in an attempt to improve Instagram users’ mental wellbeing, the photo sharing app has begun a trial to remove like counts from posts. This means that the number of likes an image has will no longer automatically appear under the post, and users will now have to click below the image to reveal the like count.
WHY IS INSTAGRAM CONSIDERING HIDING LIKES?
It is now easier than ever for social media users to edit their photos and content, further increasing the pressure on users to share the ‘perfect’ image. The result of this is that many peoples’ online persona bares virtually no resemblance to their real lives.
Whilst Instagram is a great platform for self-expression, such heavily edited pictures can easily set unrealistic expectations for users. This preoccupation with portraying the perfect persona has been shown to be detrimental to users’ mental wellbeing; driving body image concerns and a fear of missing out. In its most extreme form, this preoccupation can contribute to low self-esteem, anxiety and loneliness.
Developers at Instagram have suggested that removing like counts from posts can allow users to focus on the content they share, rather than the number of likes their posts receive.
HOW WILL THIS CHANGE IMPACT INFLUENCERS?
Number of likes is an important metric used by Instagram influencers as a way of measuring their audience engagement. Some have argued that removing like count from posts may make it more difficult for influencers to get deals with brands.
Lia Haberman, the former VP of Audience Development at Livestrong, suggests that this change could also lead to a shift away from influencer marketing altogether. She suggests that preventing brands from accessing data about likes prevents analysis of audience engagement. As such, brands may simply choose not to advertise through influencers and may instead invest in paid advertising on the platform. This could prove extremely problematic for Instagram influencers, many of whom rely on brand advertising as their main source of income.
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