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Instagram is getting rid of “likes”: What does it mean?

ByDave Stopher

Jun 18, 2020

Today, 500 million people will go through their Instagram. And many will keep scrolling, and checking because humans seem to yearn for the platform’s visual and social rewards.

But excessive social media use can be troublesome, leading to sleep disruption, productivity loss and interpersonal conflicts. While “social media addiction” remains a highly argued over term in the scientific community, the parallels between online interactions and addictive behaviours are buoying up concerns.

That’s why Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has started assessing a new policy to remove visible likes from the platform. While users could earlier see how many likes others had received on their posts, now they will only see the likes on the photos they post on their accounts.

Inside Facebook’s growth and data science teams, there is a premise that getting rid of “likes” may be an operational strategy for getting users to post more imaginative content on Instagram without worrying about the “likes” they receive. The theory is that by hiding like counts, users may feel less self-conscious when they post photos or videos that don’t garner many likes. This in turn may serve as a facilitator for getting users to post more often.

But while the loss of likes might augment mental well-being, the tiny heart-shaped button has become a profitable tool for influencers, with 3.7 million brand-sponsored posts made on the platform in 2018. Influencers use likes as a way of luring advertisers, and now they will have to reassess the way they do business.

But Instagram is making this change, even if it harms business. CEO Adam Mosseri, explained recently at a Summit that anxiety and social pressures that come from the app “are becoming more acute, particularly with young people, particularly in a mobile-first world.”

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri has described the experiment as an effort to contend the social network’s problem with cyberbullying. “It means we’re going to put a 15-year-old kid’s interests before a public speaker’s interest,” Mosseri said. “When we look at the world of public content, we’re going to put people in that world before organizations and corporations.”

Now, it’s imperative to note the discrepancy here. Instagram is not eradicating likes; it’s hiding them from your public profile. Likes will be private now, so you can still see how many likes a post received, but no one else can. You can’t see anyone else’s like tally either.

More posts mean users fritter more time on Instagram, and therefore expands the company’s ability to show more ads. Instagram is an essential part of Facebook’s future. It is the trendiest social app among teens, and it has more than 1 billion monthly users. That includes 500 million daily users of the Stories feature that was initiated in 2016 to compete against a popular feature of the same name from Snapchat. Instagram is now valued by analysts at more than $100 billion, or about one-fifth of Facebook’s total market cap.

The company first tried out the update in Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia in July 2019 before bringing it to its American users in late November 2019. While this is indeed a huge alteration to the platform, Instagram is still only in the analysis phase. Not everyone is affected, but hidden likes will likely magnify to more and more users.

Initially, those who were a part of the testing group received a banner notification on their home feeds to make them familiar with the removal of likes from the public view. However, it now seems like most people worldwide have been acquainted to an Instagram feed without likes. Instagram has not made a statement about whether or not the change is here to stay.

Instead of the number of likes on instagram revealed on a post like we’re used to, the concealed likes feature will only display one username — likely an account you and the user posting both follow — followed by “and others.”

That said, there is still a way to estimate how successful posts in comparison to others. Here are the current measurements determined by IG:

Below 100 likes: displayed as “others”

Below 1,000 likes: displayed as “hundreds of others”

Below 100,000 likes: displayed as “thousands of others”

Below 1,000,000 likes: displayed as “hundreds of thousands of others”