Instagram is hiding likes to make its platform less toxic

Instagram releases Threads to keep your friends close and Facebook ad marketing even closer
Image: Instagram

On Friday, social networking service Instagram announced plans to hide the likes of individual users in the United States. The firm said that it’s making the change to reduce competition and pressure on its platform. Notably, the Facebook subsidiary isn’t initiating a platform-wide change just yet. The program will begin next week and instead only affects some users.

In September, Instagram began hiding public like counts in Canada and has since rolled the update out to Australia, Brazil, Japan, Ireland, and New Zealand.

A Healthier Instagram

At the Wired25 event, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri talked about why his firm is deemphasizing one of its signature metrics. The executive noted that visible likes have fostered a sense of competition between users that leads to adverse outcomes.

Manage your supply chain from home with Sourcengine

Indeed, Whitney Phillips, a researcher from Syracuse University, told Wired that likes, retweets, and views can have a psychologically unhealthy effect on users and content creators. The professor explained that producers can become radicalized by chasing user engagement. Users are affected in a very similar way as they take in content from popular creators.

Accordingly, Mosseri and his team are taking steps to make the platform a healthier space. The CEO said, “The idea is to try and reduce anxiety and social comparisons, specifically with an eye towards young people.”

Once Instagram deploys its update, users will still be able to see the number of likes that their posts receive. However, the application will no longer display that information alongside the photos and videos of other users.

In July, the social network launched two new tools to curb incidences of bullying on the platform. Instagram now uses an artificial intelligence-enhanced content moderation system. The program scans new posts and, if one is flagged, asks the user if they really want to make their hateful content public.

Secondly, the service gives users the option of removing the visibility of public comments. Instagram also provides members with the ability to hide their active status from other accounts. The platform released the feature to reduce the number of toxic interactions between subscribers.

Influencer Impact

While psychiatrists and parents will likely applaud Instagram’s removal of visible likes, the change may not please its influencer community. TechCrunch noted that the firm might reverse the update if its power users experience dips in engagement during the partial rollout.

A firm called HypeAuditor found that U.K. influencers with 5,000 to 20,000 followers saw their like counts fall by 3.7 percent after the change went live. Moreover, the firm found that power users in Australia, Brazil, and Ireland experienced double-digit dips. Besides, the analyst group also discovered that like invisibility had an even more significant impact on celebrities.

HypeAuditor’s research noted that Australian influencers with between 100,000 and 1 million followers saw their likes fall by 13.3 percent. In addition, Brazilian power users experienced a drop of 28.3 percent.

Still, users shouldn’t put too much stock in that data. At the same time, British influencers saw a 0.6 percent rise in content likes and their Japanese counterparts saw a 6.8 percent increase.

Nonetheless, as the United States is home to more than 106 million Instagram subscribers, the functionality change could have a significant impact on the global influencer ecosystem.

That said, one hugely popular power user supports the change. Kim Kardashian, who is followed by more than 151 million people on Instagram, said the update would be “Beneficial.”