Are We Saying Goodbye to Instagram Likes?
by Maria Romero, May 07, 2019 5:00pm
Art by Ahl Mirambel
Social media has become an important part of our generation’s life. It allows people to communicate with others easily, provides entertainment, and keeps them updated on the latest news and trends around the world. It uses an algorithm to monitor or predict the users' needs and wants especially in marketing and advertising. This has become a reality in 2014, Thailand’s Department of Health announced social media posts as a threat to their country’s development. According to Thai Health Secretary, social media addiction could affect the development of the country’s new-generation leaders, hindering Thailand’s innovation by depending on the validation of social media as self-worth.
We are in a digital world where the number of likes in a person’s social media account is almost equivalent to the user’s worth. It can’t be denied that even brands developed a habit of buying fake Instagram accounts to inflate their engagement stats on the platform artificially. But what if social media platforms revolutionize the way we experience the digital world by removing the number of likes on posts?
Last November 2018, Instagram took a crackdown on fake followers, news of the platform’s unreleased feature removing the number of likes on a post made tractions online. Reverse-engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong known for uncovering hidden capabilities of social media services has spotted the feature.
Instagram is testing hiding like count from audiences,— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) April 18, 2019
as stated in the app: "We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get" pic.twitter.com/MN7woHowVN
According to Wong, the mobile photo-sharing app is not removing the “like” feature; they are only testing a new feature that will hide the number of likes; keeping the stats only visible to the post owner. The experiment wants the user and followers to focus on what they share and not how many likes their posts get. The “internal prototype” is yet to be released, but talks on its possible effects in the digital world are heating up.
Other on-test Instagram features spotted by Wong include karaoke-style lyrics in sync with stories, chat thread stickers for Direct Messages, and shopping bag for commerce to name a few.
What could happen once Instagram’s number of likes is removed?
This feature signals Instagram’s way of reducing pressure on its users. Once this feature is released to the public, Instagram users may soon have a more genuine interaction with their real people followers instead of the paid and fake followers. Purchased likes will also no longer matter by then to brands and personalities whose main reason for going to Instagram is to acquire a high engagement in terms of likes and following.
I love it! It would skyrocket content creation and help people focus would be on what really matters - putting up dope content. Why are likes public anyway? It doesn’t bring any value whatsoever to the content itself. Really wish this goes from split testing to public! pic.twitter.com/QclPhVVonb— Alex Doda (@AlexandruDoda) April 20, 2019
As long as there are numbers to measure a person’s followers, likes, and views online, the popularity contest will never end. But with this new feature, we may soon put an end to this virtual competition.
In the absence of likes, people might then come to a user’s comment sections to show interests in their content—that could lead to a deeper conversation than mere likes. Since the number of likes is only visible to each user, comparing a user’s social media standing would then be impossible—helpful for the user’s mental well-being in addition to other positive health benefitsthe social media brought.
Instagram is not necessarily removing the “like” feature; they are just experimenting with hiding the like count to everyone else. And on the flip side, people might mindlessly post mediocre content and stop focusing on producing quality online content. In Instagram, likes matter because its the first contact between a business and its new follower—making it easier for people to appreciate one’s post.
You can see if someone bought followers by comparing the total number of followers to the number of likes/comments. Someone with 50k followers, but with only 100 likes doesn't seem genuine.— Danny (@dannstweets) April 19, 2019
Once the number of likes is hidden, how are we (and brands!) supposed to check that?
Without the visible number of likes, users might now focus on the number of followers. But then last year, Instagram already made their move to crackdown bots and other fake followers especially on accounts with a huge following. In case buying followers become rampant again, we can only hope Instagram will take actions again.
Of course it matters. Businesses/agencies will want to know whether someone’s audience is fake or not, and the more ways to measure it that the better.— Danny (@dannstweets) April 19, 2019
Instagram is not just an app, it’s a whole industry now, that should be taken into consideration.
Some users, especially those using Instagram business accounts, are speculating to see drastic effects on the platform’s business side with this possible new feature. For brands and influencers, beating Instagram’s new algorithm is already a challenge, and with the absence of like counts, they might have to face another dilemma. For instance, a brand might compare their engagements from its competitor. In case Instagram pushes through with this new feature, marketers will be more affected than the individuals.
Plus I wouldn't be surprised if Instagram will eventually create better tools for creators to collab with brands— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) April 19, 2019
Social media has an important role in every person’s life—even a free government needs social media to function—we need to create a healthy social media environment. Will this possible new Instagram feature brings us one step closer to a healthier social media atmosphere?