As Adam Mosseri – the acting Head of Instagram explained, Facebook’s current objective is to make social media a less “pressurized environment”. Hiding the number of likes under Instagram posts has been tested in a few countries already as a way to reduce pressure on the media. Zuckerberg spoke about their desire to make people less interested in how many likes a post gets and instead, focus more on connecting with other people to be the main motive for this change. Facebook’s growth and data science teams developed a hypothesis that getting rid of likes would make users feel less self-conscious when their posts don’t receive much engagement, spurring them to post more.
Instagram likes first disappeared in Canada and then expanded to more countries including Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.
So how does it actually work?
“As you scroll through your feed, there are no like counts,” explained Mark Zuckerberg at F8 (1). “You can see who liked a photo or video, you can tap through to see [the list], and if you have the time you can add them all up yourself.”
So far, many celebrities have expressed positive attitudes regarding this major change on Instagram. Despite the many speculations about how this new feature will impact influencers, brands and other businesses, popular figures such as Cardi B and Kim Kardashian did not wait to express their support by emphasizing the positive impact it will have on mental health issues.
Hiding the number of likes on a post can cause some trouble to influencers. They strongly rely on and benefit from a notion referred to as ‘like momentum’. This is when a user likes a picture just because they see a high number of likes so they join in, or they can do it because one of their friends few has already liked it. Getting rid of the likes will put this psychological factor out of the game and reduce the engagement influencers’ posts receive and hence, will reduce the amount they can charge brands for advertisements and brand promotions. And vice versa, it more difficult for brands to find Instagram influencers to work with.
On the other hand, the number of likes not being visible to your followers may not be such a big deal for business accounts. On the contrary, it can allow brands to focus more on building valuable relationships with their clients. Without the number of likes, the focus is now on content – meaning that accounts can post more freely without being limited to their best shots only because of likes.
A hidden motive for hiding likes?
It is a possibility that, after removing the like count feature, people will start posting more because they will be feeling less self-conscious when their posts don’t score the desired engagement. With the number of posts increasing dramatically, so does the time users spend on the media and therefore Instagram benefits from the ability to show more ads. Considering the fact that Instagram is a significant part of Facebook’s future and the most popular social media among teens it makes total sense for this change to go beyond online bullying and pressure concerns.