An influencer’s nightmare: Instagram experiments with removing likes

Imagine how life for influencers on Instagram would change when no one but you can see how many followers or likes you have.

Screenshots shared by researcher Jane Manchun Wong on Twitter show internal development that Instagram may be considering shaking things up on its social media platform so that posts no longer show exactly how many people have liked it. Concealing the likes would give users the ability to value quality over quantity, however Instagram has also confirmed with TechCrunch that the groundbreaking design is being experimented on and not available to the public yet. 

“We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get,” Instagram says in an in-app message explaining the change. “During this test, only the person who shared a post will see the total number of likes it gets.”

Typically, Instagram shows likes by number, username and by others under a post, which makes it easy to see how many people have liked a photo. However, the new system does away with the number, showing liked by username and others instead. Back in 2016, Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom said that one of the reasons they created Instagram Stories was to get away from the pressure of like counts, and this could be the next stage in evolution toward a kinder, gentler Instagram.

Removing likes from social media

So far the news has been drawing mixed responses, with some Twitter users expressing relief about not having to curate their feed for likes, while others are concerned about the sustainability of influencer business models that relies on post likes and engagement. While liking an image may seem harmless — and is designed to seem so — whenever a user presses a “like” button, that information is used by advertisers to compile information about the user, most times without their knowledge.

Should it take effect, the new feature would be a first step by social media platforms to address the very pressing mental health issues resulting from constantly comparing yourself with others’ carefully curated feeds. Narcissism, envy, and low self-image can all stem from staring at like counts, which are a constant reminder of the status hierarchies that have emerged from social networks.

Last month, Twitter began testing a design that hides retweet counts behind an extra tap to similarly discourage competition. However, Snapchat has never shown like counts or even follower counts for that matter, which has made it feel less stressful but also less useful for influencers.

In the end, do you think removing likes from Instagram will it spell the ending for some influencer careers?