In a surprising new app update, Instagram is testing a feature that would change the way users interact with the app: removing the total number of likes from posts that appear on the main feed and profiles.
The account user who posts an image or video will still see the number of likes, but the total likes will be hidden from the public. A couple of profile pictures from users who have liked the photo will appear below the post—a feature that is currently in place—but otherwise, users will not have any insight into other users’ likes.
After announcing that the new feature would be rolled out at the Facebook F8 Developers Conference, Instagram indicated that the change was initiated to help followers focus on what they are sharing, rather than how many likes each post receives. The shift comes after a wave of critics that have condemned social media companies for promoting low self-esteem and depression.
The team at CNG Digital Marketing sat down to discuss the new feature as well as some of the pros and cons of social media.
Potential Positive Effects:
It would discourage the obsession with ‘likes’
The change is intended to promote more honest expression by allowing users to post what they really want to share, rather than posting what they think will lead to more likes.
If users spent less time considering the way their post would be reacted to (at least in the public eye), they might be more inclined to post more authentic or genuine content.
It would help cut the dopamine addiction
Studies have demonstrated that receiving a “like” on Instagram gives users a dopamine rush that can quickly become addictive. Over time, this indicates that users are physiologically rewarded by posting images or videos that receive more likes.
It could help out the next generation of Instagram users
Current users of Instagram would likely need time to adjust to the change, since the “like” feature is so integral to the interface as it stands now.
However, the shift would help cultivate a new set of expectations for the next generation—expectations that are less-centered around comparison and self-promotion, and more focused on self-expression.
It could be an end to “influencers”
The influencer realm has grown into its own economy and has dramatically increased social media traffic. Instagram influencers are significant because they have introduced a new form of advertising that is in direct competition with typical ads; advertisers can forego paying Instagram for ads because they can directly pay influencers to promote content or products.
Taking away the likes system would most likely push out this advertising style, since the “influencer” culture was a direct result of popularity measured in “likes.”
It could monopolize Instagram ads
If the “influencer” culture disappears, does this ultimately mean more money for Instagram, since businesses would be forced to turn to paid promoted posts?
Sponsoring influencers might breed a self-promoting culture, but it does give users more agency over the way advertising is evolving.
Aren't there more important problems to address first?
Another broader question is whether this is the most important app feature Instagram should be addressing right now.
There are a number of other pressing concerns, including removing hateful content, eliminating Instagram “bots,” and considering restoring the chronological timeline feature that many users preferred.
Should this really be the priority, given these other shortcomings?
What do you think? Leave a comment below about how you think this change could affect Instagram.