Instagram are trialling an update where the number of “likes” is hidden. But will the move improve our mental health or be a blow for businesses? Buro. debates
Three months ago I deleted my Instagram account. My reasons were simple; I wasted too much time on it, I compared myself to other people and I questioned getting a fringe. Aside from hovering over @BadGalRiri’s page on my laptop or peering over a stranger's shoulder on the tube, I haven’t looked back
In the first few days muscle memory got the better of me and when I checked my phone my finger would skate around the screen looking for the app, but I retrained myself to read an article or listen to a podcast instead. I’m only a recent convert and call me dramatic, but I really feel like I’m on the right side of history.
But hey, enough about me! This week, Instagram has begun rolling out it’s policy to hide the number of likes a post has received, and it’s being touted as one of the greatest changes the platform has ever made. While users will still be able to see their own likes, those viewing another person's page will only be able to see a sample of the names who have liked the post. It’s a move that has divided opinions. Kim Kardashian is in favour, while Nicki Minaj is threatening to boycott the whole platform. Since I’m heavily biased on the whole subject, we asked Lisa Potter-Dixon, author, make-up artist and bonafide beauty-guru to weigh in too.
Perhaps I’ve already established myself as dramatic, but like cocaine or gambling, Instagram is addictive. That’s not hyperbole, it’s scientifically backed. Trevor Haynes, a research technician in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, explains that “platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using their products as much as possible.” In layman's terms, “likes” are a positive social stimulus with the potential to cause a dopamine influx. Once we get it, we want more, so we constantly check our phones waiting for the “like” to come in: it’s addictive.
If removing likes is one small way to combat that feedback loop, then to me it’s a no-brainer. This change has the potential to improve our mental health, and completely reconfigure the way brands use social media. In having to rethink their Instagram strategies; making engaging, authentic content will be the priority, rather than hiring the influencers with the largest following who can bring them the most likes. Again, that’s surely a good thing? Maybe I’ll be even come back.
Shannon Mahanty, Buro. Contributor
IMAGE | unsplash
I wouldn't say I'm outright against the move by Instagram to hide likes on posts, but I am someone whose Instagram platform forms part of their business, so I have mixed feelings about the effect this might have. My main concern is that, for Influencers or professional profiles with a significant following like mine, we work in a digital space where everything is based on engagement. Utimately what’s going to happen is, when brands won’t necessarily be able to see the engagement from a post, it will impact the metrics and relationships. Obviously they can still request insights, and there will be tools for them to view them, but is that going to be good enough to continue to get the work in this highly competitive market? Are the people who have bought fake followers going to suddenly start getting more work because their poorer engagement is somewhat masked?
Obviously there are positives too, it takes some of the social pressure off users who feel anxiety around how well their content is liked, particularly young people because the public competitive stress around how many likes they get can be tough.
The other thing; will people actively engage with posts “like” as much? Will they double tap the heart button, or will they just speed up their scrolling because you're no longer prompted by subliminally sense checking if your liking is in line with all the other likers anyway? It’s all so unknown at the moment, in this trial period, which is the challenge for users and business profiles like mine. Hopefully it’s being done for the right reason and not just because Instagram are feeling the pressure to change. I am constantly concerned by the trolling and bullying that goes on online, and I hope Instagram will be affecting change by doing this. Is it going to be valuable for everyone? We will have to wait and see.
Lisa Potter-Dixon, Make-Up Artist and Author
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