Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard that Instagram is trialling a feature that hides the number of likes a post receives from its users.
So far, the trial is only affecting users in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, Canada and Brazil, but there’s rumour that it’s set to be rolled out globally. The purpose of the feature is to hide the number of likes other people’s photos get, but you will still be able to view a list of likes for your own posts. The aim, according to Instagram, is to create a less pressurised environment to encourage users to concentrate on their content, rather than the number of likes they receive.
That sounds well-intentioned enough to me.
Yet others aren’t so happy with the news. A video of an Australian Instagram model, Mikaela Testa, crying her eyes out over something she has put her “blood, sweat and tears into” being “ripped away” by Instagram’s decision to test the new feature has since gone viral, with everyone up in arms about the prospect of the end of influencers.
Whilst I am not here to discredit the time and effort Testa puts in to her Instagram – which, to her credit, is her full time job – I feel that the notion of “blood, sweat and tears” doesn’t really resonate with Instagram modelling, particularly in the context of the child labour that no doubt goes into the making of the fast fashion brands many of these Instagram models are promoting on their profiles.
I don’t believe that the end of likes means the end of the careers and livelihoods of those who rely on influencer culture to pay their monthly expenses. For one, likes haven’t disappeared as a feature altogether. On social media – be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – the interaction between users is largely based on clicking that thumbs up or the little heart. People will continue to like content, regardless of whether or not they can see if their mutuals have too liked a post.
Even if Instagram removes the like feature worldwide, there always be measures of engagement that brands and companies can refer to when it comes to deciding who and when to collaborate with an influencer on Instagram. The most conspicuous? The follower count is by far a stronger indication of reach than hidden likes will be. I’m sure the ubiquitous Instagram models won’t be losing their #ads anytime soon.
Returning to its roots.
In the statements made by Instagram’s representatives, hiding likes is being cast as a way to facilitate the platform’s return to its glory days. Granted, maybe glorious isn’t the most accurate word to use when it comes to describing the time where iPhone users were the only ones who could post overly filtered, square photos to their nascent Instagram profiles. Though, that said, Instagram was – at one stage – a place where people could experiment with their creativity and share it with the world around them. Maybe I’m just being overcome by nostalgia, but that sort of platform sounds like something worth all its praises.
More slapdash that revolutionary?
However, the person who posted the photo will still be able to see how many of those little love hearts their latest post is collecting. In this way, Instagram’s self-professed commitment to reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health. Platforms like Instagram always come up in the discussion of low self-esteem and body image amongst young people, women especially.
But ultimately, the feature only goes as far as to hide the likes other user’s posts get, whilst allowing us to continue to count how many likes we are getting and thus use it as a measure of our self-worth. In that sense, Instagram still has quite a way to go before it no longer poses the potential to become a harmful source of gratification.