Is mental health the only reason Instagram is removing likes?
Instagram’s test run on the removal of number of likes might be the next most controversial feature change after The Great Instagram Logo Freakout of 2016, and it’s gaining various reactions from netizens, influencers, and celebrities.
No need to panic though, you can still see whether your sis liked your new selfies, or if your crush sent a heart over that particular outfit you felt proud wearing. The point being: you can see your likes, but they won’t.
Instead of the usual “like” count, one can only see the people who recently liked their posts as well as mutual likers, followed by “others”.
According to Mia Garlick, a Facebook policy director, the test was done in hopes of removing the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, “so you can focus on sharing the things you love”.
But can their reason be more than that?
No hearts for social media influencers
Although the new feature remains a prototype, surprisingly enough, it has already received a huge backlash from its users—particularly from influencers and celebrities. Nicki Minaj even said in a tweet that she would ‘stop’ using Instagram herself in solidarity with independent artists.
I’m not posting on IG after this week cuz they removing the likes. Hmmmm what should I get into now? Think of all the time I’ll have with my new life
— Mrs. Petty (@NICKIMINAJ) November 9, 2019
It’s no big news that many influencers get their income from using Instagram, but without the exact number of likes, sponsors and brands would have no way of telling whether the influencer is successful, save for the follower counts and audience engagement.
On the other hand, Instagram also mentioned in their official statement that they understand the importance of likes for the creators, and are actively thinking of new ways to communicate value with their partners.
Mental health advocacy or capitalism at work?
Following the surge of opinions regarding the removal of number of likes, there were some who questioned Instagram’s motive for adding the new feature: with the amount of likes being confidential to the user and to Instagram, where do the sponsors and brands get their data?
The answer? Instagram.
As Olivia Ovenden puts it, “Every week, millions of dollars pass from brands to influencers, and Facebook (Instagram’s parent company) doesn’t get a cut.” As brands get their advertisements from well-liked influencers all over social media, they had no way of getting their share of money—unless, of course, an influencer’s popularity is hidden and only the user itself and Instagram can see it.
That being said, the new feature doesn’t stop others from being able to view a user’s follower count, which, on its own, is still a popularity indicator.
Without a doubt, social media, especially Instagram, isn’t an ideal place for our mental health, as many users continue to compare themselves with others and struggle with their self-esteem.
But with Instagram beginning to prioritize users’ happiness, it isn’t difficult to be cynical about their true reason, especially when Facebook has a lot to fix starting with surveillance and fake news that threaten morality and democracy.
As social media keeps evolving to fit the needs of its users, we should always keep in mind whether these changes actually address the problem, or create another in its stead.