At this stage, we’re all well aware of the impacts that social media, and particularly Instagram, can have on mental health and self-esteem. What you may not have known is that the social networking service is taking steps to combat and reduce these negative effects.
Instagram user Jane Manchun Wong came across a trial in the code of Instagram's Android app which suggests that the platform is looking to hide who and how many people hit the like button on a post.
Instagram is testing hiding like count from audiences,
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— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) 18 April 2019
A pop-up message explains: “Testing a Change to How You See Likes.” It goes on to add, “We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get. During this test, only the person who shared a post will see the total number of likes it gets.”
The new development would mean that an Instagram user would be able to view the likes on his or her own posts, but not on those of anybody else. As is seen in the screenshot, the number of likes has been replaced by "and others". The aim behind this development is not to ruin the lives of influencers - rather, it’s to reduce competition over likes and to tackle social media pressure.
However, the introduction of this feature would inevitably change the way in which the influencer business operates. It would become more difficult for companies on the hunt for an influential brand ambassador to gauge engagement on an influencer’s posts, thereby changing the way partnerships and sponsorship deals are obtained. The business of buying likes may also become obsolete. But would it put influencers and their followers on a level playing field? Most likely not, since there are no immediate plans to hide comment counts or follower counts - the latter being widely considered the defining characteristic of having influencer status.
Instagram has made clear its intention to encourage more authentic photo-sharing on its site. The driving force behind the launch of Instagram stories was a desire to have more genuine self-expression and organic content shared on the platform, without regard for likes and comments. This development may stop users curating an Instagram feed of posts with the highest levels of engagement, and instead encourage them to share more authentic content that may not garner the most likes. It’s worth considering whether or not the World Record Egg would have shot to fame if users couldn’t see the like count, nor who else had liked the post - the element of herd mentality would have been eliminated.
The company has disclosed that they’re still tweaking the design and the feature has not yet been unveiled publicly (and Instagram could still decide against doing so).
Ultimately, though, it will be down to the public whether or not the feature is installed. When Instagram trialled a horizontal feed in December, the outcry from online users was so great that Instagram reverted the update.
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