Back in April, Instagram announced that it would trial the removal of the like count for users in Canada. The proposed change has received a mixed response, with general users, online influencers and business accounts considering what this will mean for their online presence.
Currently, there are two account settings available on Instagram – public or private. If you have a public account, both you and any member of the general public using the platform can view the number of likes you have received on a post. If you have set your account to private, both you and those that you have accepted to follow you can see the number of likes received on your posts.
If the changes currently being tested are approved, it will mean that the number of likes on a post will not show to anyone, except the account holder, regardless of whether they have a public or private Instagram account, or have set up a business or personal profile.
Why Have the Changes Been Proposed?
Instagram has arguably been the leader for quantifying our popularity but now looks to be regretting the trial by numbers game it created.
Whilst they haven’t said too much regarding their current trial, they did state: “We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.”In Facebook’s F8 conference, Instagram also pitched the move as a way to “reduce pressure” on users.
Whilst Instagram hasn’t directly mentioned the impacts of social media on mental health, a plethora of studies that have been carried out since the mid-2000s, the peak of the social media boom, demonstrate the growing negative side effects of social media, which need to be tackled.
Depression and anxiety rates have risen by 70% in the last 23 years and evidence suggests that increased social media usage is linked to an increased likelihood of depression.
Whilst some sceptics think Instagram may be trialling the removal of likes to gain popularity with those that blame social media for an increase in mental health issues, others are welcoming the change and the shift in mentality it may bring.
What Does the Trial in Canada Show?
Since the trial of this change has finished in Canada, it has been rolled out to six other countries including Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand, suggesting positive results from the initial trial. Instagram hasn’t yet given away any of their findings, however.
The Benefits of Hiding the Like Count
Matt Dusenbury, a user who has taken part in the trial, said that “Without seeing the likes count on feed posts now, I find myself more clearly focused on the actual quality of the content being posted”.
Anyone who is social media savvy will know that many of the photos you see on Instagram have been edited in some way, which can create an unrealistic ideal for young people to live up to.
A study conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health, which included 1,479 14-24 year-olds, found that out of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube, it was Instagram that had the most negative effect on body image.
During the study, participants were asked to rank to what extent each social media platform affected the following factors:
1. Awareness and understanding of other people’s health experiences
2. Access to expert health information you know you can trust
3. Emotional support (empathy and compassion from family and friends)
4. Anxiety (feelings of worry, nervousness or unease)
5. Depression (feeling extremely low and unhappy)
6. Loneliness (feelings of being all on your own)
7. Sleep (quality and amount of sleep)
8. Self-expression (the expression of your feelings, thoughts or ideas)
9. Self-identity (ability to define who you are)
10. Body image (how you feel about how you look)
11. Real-world relationships (maintaining relationships with other people)
12. Community building (feeling part of a community of like-minded people)
13. Bullying (threatening or abusive behaviour towards you)
14. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out – feeling you need to stay connected because you are worried things could be happening without you)
When scores from the participants were totalled up, Instagram was shown to be the most negative platform overall. Emily Hall, another user which has taken part in the trial removal of likes, stated: “I knew that other people seeing my photos weren’t able to judge me preemptively on the number of likes I had on my photo or the likes versus the amount of time a photo had been posted.” This, she said, lead to her feeling less “obsessed” with how many likes a photo had received. Additionally, she stated “I’m less prone to pre-judge something by looking at the number of likes first and the actual photo second”, arguably leading to more authentic interactions between Instagram users.
What Will The Update Mean for Businesses and Influencers?
Naturally, some businesses and influencers have been concerned that hiding the like count will make it more difficult to strike up brand deals and collaborations. There have, however, been counter opinions. Some believe that if the number of likes will no longer show to the user, likes will not have as much weight in the algorithm, making them less important. Additionally, users can still express their public support for photos by leaving comments and by following an account.
The like count has been the “storefront” for many Instagram influencers for a long time. Should the changes be rolled out, brands will likely wish to see a history of past statistics from an account holder before working with them. It may also mean influencers will have to become more active in their approach to brands, rather than letting their like count do the talking. Navigating the world of social media can seem daunting, especially when so many accounts seem to have their theme or message down to a tee. If you need help defining your online presence, we can help. Please call 01604 765796 or send your enquiry through to our online contact form and we’ll be in touch shortly.