In 2019, Instagram announced that they would be testing the removal of “like” counts, so that when you made a post – only you would be able to see how many likes your post received. Anyone else who viewed the post, would only see “liked by ___ and others.” They began this test in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Brazil, Japan and New Zealand, and to this day in Canada, we don’t see the number of likes that others’ posts receive.
I think that this is a great step in the right direction, but I’d like to argue 3 reasons that Instagram would be better if they hide their like counts altogether, including from the original poster.
1. Less comparison to others “superior” lives
In removing the “like” counts from the posts of others, it will certainly help people in their comparisons to others. No longer will users be able to compare how many “likes” their own post got versus another user. But don’t think that they will let it stop there. The user will still be able to view their own “like” counts and they will still fight tooth and nail to earn those “likes.”
Instagram has more than 1 billion active users per day… think of all the people you could possibly be comparing yourself to on a daily basis.
Users tend to use “likes” as a sense of validation and of their own self-worth – “likes” act as a sort of reward system, basically like achievement medals. Like, “Hey, good job!” As humans, we inherently seek validation and getting these likes as rewards reinforce our behaviour. So when you post a boujee photo and that gets a lot of “likes”… you’ll keep posting similar boujee photos because that behaviour has now been reinforced.
The problem with this, is that it leads to people creating fake personas on the internet, and they curate these photos to make their lives seem extraordinary. Unfortunately, people only tend to post the good things and not the bad… It’s not news that Instagram and other social media is damaging to individuals’ mental health. When others see influencers living such extravagant lives, it’s hard to not feel jealous, and we frequently feel as if we’re not good enough, because our lives aren’t like that. It’s no surprise that depression is on the rise in teens, now that they are constantly comparing their lives to other “successful” people. We need to find a way to reduce the constant consumerism competitiveness on social media.
2. Higher quality content
When users, particularly younger ones, notice their post is not getting enough likes as they would expect, they have a tendency to delete these posts and act as if they never happened – because they’re embarrassed and ashamed of the fact that they didn’t get enough “likes.”
This has led to many users creating “finstas” – as discovered in a study by Scott Ross. He found that many of the users he questioned had created a main account with a perfectly curated persona of how they wanted to be perceived online, but that they have also created secondary “fake” instagram accounts. This “finsta” allows these users to be themselves on these accounts instead of the perfectly curated person they’re trying to be.
If Instagram removes the “like” feature, then people will be able to focus on posting whatever they please instead of just posting whatever will earn them their precious “likes”. Without the ability to view the “likes”, they wouldn’t delete their posts after only a few minutes, and maybe that content would actually get to see the light of day.
Not only would regular users be able to post whatever they’d like, but there would be an expectation from influencers to post higher quality content to maintain their present levels of engagement.
3. Increased engagement
Simply put – most people consider “liking” a post, to be engaging with that post. Take away the “like” feature however, and users will need to turn to other means of interacting with those individuals or businesses they follow. This could mean an increase in the number of comments, allowing for companies and influencers to engage with their followers. This would open that process of communication that has been closed to the ease of just simply “liking” a post.
If you take away the simplicity of just “liking a post”, people will pay more attention to the content and focus on the things that they actually like, not just what it seems like everyone else likes. Marie Mostad said it best in an interview with Insider:
“If you think of an art gallery, you will stop and take a closer look at paintings or photographs you really like, and it doesn’t have anything to do with what other people like — it’s just your personal taste,” she said. “A gallery would never have a counter showing which pictures people spend the most time on. It’s just the subjective taste that matters.”
We need to pull Instagram and other social media away from this competitive atmosphere where people associate their content with their value and self-worth. We need to get instagram back to its initial purpose: a way to share what you want to share. I think one of the best ways to do this would be to get rid of the likes feature altogether.
Here’s a challenge for you! When you’re on social media and you go to ‘like’ someone’s post… try to think about WHY you are liking this post. I think it’s pretty eye opening to explore these. Leave me a comment with some of your thoughts or reasonings!
Barrow, A. (2019). What the removal of Instagram likes means for Influencer Marketing. Retrieved January 27, 2020, from https://www.scrunch.com/blog/what-the-removal-of-instagram-likes-means-for-influencer-marketing
Dodgson, L. (2019). How removing Instagram likes could help influencer mental health—Insider. Retrieved January 27, 2020, from https://www.insider.com/how-removing-instagram-likes-could-help-influencer-mental-health-2019-11
Galbato, C. (2019). I’m an influencer and I hope Instagram gets rid of “likes” for good (Opinion)—CNN. CNN. Retrieved January 27, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/13/perspectives/instagram-removing-likes/index.html
IZEA (2019). The Consequences of Removing Instagram Likes. IZEA. https://izea.com/2019/08/26/instagram-likes/
Ross, S. (2019). Being Real on Fake Instagram: Likes, Images, and Media Ideologies of Value. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 29(3), 359–374. https://doi.org/10.1111/jola.12224
Tiggemann, M., Hayden, S., Brown, Z., & Veldhuis, J. (2018). The effect of Instagram “likes” on women’s social comparison and body dissatisfaction. Body Image, 26, 90–97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.07.002