Instagram: Photo-sharing platform Instagram is testing out a new feature that would allow users to decide whether they wish to show the count of likes on their posts or those of others or hide it. The small test is being conducted at a global scale, Instagram owner Facebook has said. Instagram has been experimenting with the hiding of likes since 2019, and till now, it would enable and disable this feature for small groups of users at a time to assess how people are reacting to this feature. However, in the latest test, it has decided to give control over this to a small number of users.
The move comes after last month, the social media platform accidentally hid the like counts on the posts of a large number of users, even though it had meant to carry out a small test. This had led to strong reactions from users.
Now, users who have been selected for this small testing would be able to decide if they wish to see the like counts. A new option to hide likes would be available in Settings for these users, and with it, they would not have to see the likes on posts of other people while scrolling through their Instagram feed. Moreover, selected creators would also be able to hide their likes on a post-by-post basis by clicking on the ‘more options’ (denoted by three dots) option for each post. In case creators choose to use this feature, their likes would not be visible publicly, but they would still be able to access their engagements in the analytics dashboard.
The matter of likes on Instagram or social media platforms in general has been a topic of debate for long. Some people have argued about how getting likes is slowly becoming a measure of popularity, putting pressure on everyone to one-up each post of theirs, even if they are not content creators. This was the reason why Instagram had begun hiding likes for small groups in the first place, to test whether hiding this parameter actually did relieve any stress or pressure that users might be feeling.
However, much like the never-ending debate, there seemed to be no solid conclusion of the social media platform’s tests, which it had halted in between due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hiding of likes led to the platform getting mixed reaction from users, and these reactions were augmented when Instagram mistakenly hid the likes of a large number of users. Several users praised the move, advocating how this would lead users to be able to post their content without worrying about being judged by their followers if their likes count was low.
On the other hand, some users wanted to continue to see the likes to be able to keep a track of what was trending. This was especially true among the influencers, who are now increasingly and slowly taking over the platform. They argued that likes was the parameter using which they could convince brands and advertisers of their value, and so hiding this parameter would adversely affect their earnings, because lower engagement would lead to lower earnings.
These polar opposite but valid opinions are likely what drove Instagram to choose to hand over the control in this regard to the users themselves. At the moment, the feature is only being tested among a small population of users. It is also not clear when, if at all, this feature would be launched for all the users. However, that is something that would probably be decided based on the results of these tests.
It is still noteworthy, though, to understand if this feature, if launched, would effectively result in resolving this issue or not. In all probability, the influencer community would continue to keep their likes undisclosed, because that would help convert their content into earnings via partnership. It is also important to understand how these influencers have seeped into the nooks and crannies of social media, and so they are now affecting majority of users at a micro level, and such huge exposure to influencers is likely to make most of these users subconsciously want to become content creators as well or at least copy these influencers.
Thus, this is likely not going to have any major impact on the ground. But for what it is worth, Instagram’s attempt to address this problem is still appreciable.