By Emmy Wiest
Elm Staff Writer
In November 2019, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced an initiative to reconfigure how U.S. users interact with one another on the platform. Instagram users would no longer be able to see how many people liked other user’s posts.
Mosseri defended the initiative by stating that the change is “about young people — the idea is to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition” and instead a space designed for users to “connect with people that they love and things that inspire them.”
Since May, Instagram has undergone trial runs in Canada, Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. Now, select users in the U.S. are experiencing the same. Instagram has not shared how large the pool of users in the trial is, but has expressed that the goal is to understand how this change impacts user’s interactions with one another and the platform itself before fully transitioning.
The change does not entirely get rid of the “like” function on posts — instead, it hides the “like” count from those scrolling past. Users can still see how many people liked their own posts. This feature reiterates that the point is not to entirely get rid of feedback, but to avoid comparison and competition between users. In short, hiding like counts could potentially transform Instagram from the grounds of a popularity contest to what it was intended to be — a space designed for users to “connect with people that they love and the things that inspire them,” as Mosseri said in his announcement.
So far, the biggest concern with the change comes from social media influencers. Influencers, or those who earn income through sponsored content on platforms like Instagram, argue that hiding likes could make business more difficult for them. The number of likes an influencer gets has generally been a key factor in determining how much a sponsor is willing to pay for a post including their product. That being said, influencers are not entirely left out to dry — their follower count, another major indicator of their worth to sponsors, is still entirely intact. Additionally, influencer marketing platforms that access an influencer’s analytics can be utilized by sponsors looking for a partnership.
Not all influencers disagree with the change — many support the initiative for its likely benefits to mental health, and are enthused by the opportunity to cultivate a more authentic platform. Several celebrities have also backed the initiative — Kim Kardashian and Cardi B have both been outspoken about their support of this step to reduce the toll social media can have on mental health.
Removing “like” counts is a step toward creating a more emotionally and socially healthy platform — having our “like” counts hidden away allows us to focus on the content we are sharing with the people we care about. There is a sense of freedom in knowing that the popularity of a post is no longer a publicly visible factor, and it serves as a reminder that worrying about the number of people who double tap on your selfie has no consequence but adding unnecessary stress to your day.
Social media is a powerful tool for expressing creativity and creating bonds across social and physical distances — removing the like count beneath our posts is such a simple and salient way to start transforming one of our favorite platforms from a popularity contest to an inclusive space for sharing what we love.