“We are testing this because we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get,” stated an Instagram spokesperson. The news was announced at Facebook’s annual developer conference in San Jose.
We expect this test to elicit a range of reactions, from anger to relief. Likes are often used as a metric of popularity. Some Instagram users feel pressure to rack up the likes or post photos curated for the social media age. Not getting enough likes can even affect some users’ self-esteem. According to some studies, Instagram is the most detrimental social networking app for young people’s mental health.
Likes are powerful because they are immediate feedback. But many people’s days can be ruined when a post doesn’t get enough likes. Sometimes they’ll even delete the photo. Although removing public-facing likes could result in users posting more authentic content and feeling less pressure on the platform, experts said it’s not a cure-all solution.
For teenagers, this is great because it would no longer highlight levels of popularity of themselves against other kids, but they’re still going to see their own likes. People are very driven by rewards so they’re still going to be competing for those likes. It’s not going to fully solve the problem. It also doesn’t address or fix some of the other factors that can impact the self-esteem of people on the platform, such as bullying, feeling left out or thinking other people’s lives are better or more glamorous than their own.
Some people believe that none of that goes away when you take away likes. Regardless if Instagram takes away likes, you can’t escape the inevitable that people will still compare their lives and feel inferior.
The move, if rolled out more broadly, could also cause some confusion for the influencer marketing industry. Social media stars working with brands on partnerships are often paid based on engagement on their posts, and part of that involves likes. As a result, comments, follower counts or other metrics could become more important to people making money on Instagram.
So what’s your take on this topic? Is removing the like button from Instagram going to make the app better, worse, or will it not make a difference?