Liking No “Likes” on Instagram

Sometime last year, Instagram decided to start experimenting with removing the “likes” on posts. This means the person who posted the image/video could see how many likes s/he received, but the number would not be available to others. The idea is to eliminate the competitive nature of instagram and get users to focus on content, rather than posting sensational items purely to acquire “likes.”

Instagram, a social media app owned by Facebook, is a platform for people to share images and videos. It includes features such as filters or using “Stories” to help brands and individuals promote themselves or connect with others. Another prominent part of Instagram, similar to almost every other social media app, is the ability to “like” something and to see how many likes a certain post has obtained.

For a long time I’ve been following the different social media apps in the news, always curious to see what the impact is on the people who use them. In 2015, I posted about the use of Rinsta and Finsta Instagram accounts in a blog, “Hiding in Plain Sight.” Rinsta is for the “real” public-facing Instagram account. Finsta, the “fake” Instagram account is ironically the one used for posting unedited and spontaneous content to a select group of intimates.

What’s always been interesting to me about social media apps, is how much effort and time is spent in curating the perfect illusion and posting it at the optimal time to acquire the maximum number of views. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your content to get noticed and seen, in some ways that’s the point of using social media. However, a minor obsession has evolved around obtaining “likes.” It has become a status symbol used to gauge value, popularity, and quality. The more likes, the better (i.e., more viral) the content is, which for many is the ultimate goal.

As I learned more about this aspect of social media, the visibility of the “likes,” I often thought that removing this number from view would change the entire landscape for the better. Lots of likes may entice people to click on a post, simply because it seems popular. And I’m sure the number of likes influences the ranking and visibility of posts in newsfeeds and search results.

I’m curious to learn how Instagram’s experiment of removing visible “likes,” will change this social media’s landscape and influence. Stay tuned!

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