July 25, 2019
Instagram has removed likes and we’ve summed up the pros & cons
Earlier this month, Instagram brought their test to hide how many ‘likes’ a post receives down under and in the process sparked a larger conversation about the impact social media is having on e-commerce and on our mental health.
After trials in Canada commenced in early March, Instagram has spread the change to six more countries stating, “We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get. You can still see your own likes by tapping on the list of people who've liked it, but your friends will not be able to see how many likes your post has received”. Since the changes have rolled out, opinions all for the changes and vehemently against it have risen to the surface. For those sitting on the fence, we’ve summed up the main arguments for and against Instagrams latest change.

The arguments FOR…

Mental Health

Removing the ability to see how many likes your friends receive removes one more tool for comparison and fans of the change believe this is a step in the right direction.

Reducing the competition and pressure around these posts by removing the objective metrics allowing for such direct comparison will hopefully reduce the anxiety and stress social media has been shown to create for many of its users.

Essentially, for individual users, the dopamine hit of the number stays, but the ego blow of seeing other people’s is less of an issue for those who are susceptible to such things.

Less pressure, more content

For those who are worried about oversharing or sharing the ‘wrong type of content’ this change acts as somewhat of a license to post, without the fear of a likes flop.

Not being able to compare the metric will therefore be great for the platform as people feel far less pressure to post content that historically encourages a lot of likes.

We may be seeing less of that certain body type posting beach shots and more creative content appearing on our newsfeeds. The level of ‘risk’ or anxiety associated with posting should theoretically decrease.

Comments take centre stage

With one metric falling down the ranks, others will naturally rise and we predict it will be comments that take the lead. This will hopefully encourage more meaningful posts that incite a more meaningful engagement.

This could be the push need for people to take the time to engage in conversation. The reduction of likes will also mean the industry will have to adapt and develop more adequate metrics for measuring influencer impact.

The arguments AGAINST….

Is it really helping your mental health?

“We are addicted to likes because likes were designed to be addictive, and it’s going to take a while to unlearn that Pavlovian reflex in order to establish a healthier relationship with social media,” says Tristan Harris via Vogue. Whilst others may not see your likes count, you can and you can still wonder why a post has or hasn’t performed well in comparison to your others.

Unlearning this habit will take a lot of time.   There are also arguments that whilst the likes on these images won’t be visible, the aspirational aspect of them isn’t going anywhere. We just won’t have the numbers to compare but is this really the problem?

The argument remains that Instagram is making a very small change to appear as though they are making a difference, without truly impacting the use of the app. At the end of the day, their bread and butter is keeping you hooked on the app.

Lack of data visibility impacting influencers

An easy way for businesses to screen influencers has always been checking statistics like their engagement on posts, through their like count.

An account with high follower count and little engagement could be less valuable than an account with a lower follower count and high levels of engagement.

Influencers have argued that taking away the ability to see this may alter their engagement levels and their ability to be approached by new clients. The process of engaging an influencer will therefore be longer, particularly for those who have not already established themselves with brand deals.

Influencers will have to provide insights that reflect their worth accurately during the initial stages of coming on board with a brand which could present as a barrier to their ability to have new clients approach them.

Instagrams bottom line

Influencers believe this change has been made to drive businesses to spend their marketing budget on paid Instagram adds rather than on influencer marketing.

So whilst Instagram has argued that mental health is the key driver for this change, it would be naive for us to assume money doesn’t play a role in it.  

To some extent an inflation of ‘likes’ and the rise of fake or bought followings has left a bitter taste in some consumers mouths, suggesting that influencers are inauthentic and therefore not ideal brand ambassadors. This change could further solidify this and drive businesses to invest in more direct sponsored content.

It will be interesting to hear the impact of this test and whether or not Instagram deems it successful enough to make the change permanent. For now, stay tuned by following us on Instagram. While you’re there, be sure like our posts…