Instagram Tests Hiding Like Counts to Reduce Focus on Vanity Metrics
As social media becomes more prominent, so too does the role it plays in society, whether that’s in regards to the distribution of news content, the facilitation of groups and movements, or personal wellbeing, and how the use of such tools affects people’s perception of self.
That last element has become a more significant concern in recent times. In late 2017, Facebook published a report which looked at whether social media is good or bad for us, which concluded that, used right, social platforms can facilitate important and valuable connections. But ‘used right’ is the key – in order to be beneficial, social platforms need to encourage more active, engaging activity, as opposed to mindless scrolling and basic response.
So how can they do that?
One aspect that’s getting more focus is follower and like counts, and the value that such numbers actually provide (or don’t). Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has previously noted that follower counts are now ‘meaningless‘, while in a more recent TED conference in Vancouver, Dorsey said that:
“If I had to start the service again, I wouldn’t emphasize the ‘like’ count as much. I don’t think I would even create ‘like’ in the first place, because it doesn’t actually push what we believe now to be the most important thing, which is healthy contribution back to the network.”
And now, Instagram is experimenting with the removal of like counts from posts, with only the creator able to see their total number of likes.
As you can see in this example, provided by reverse engineering specialist Jane Manchun Wong, the total like count has been removed from the first image, while the second notes that only the creator can see the cumulative count.
On the last shot, the description down the bottom reads:
“Testing a Change to How You See Likes – We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get. During this test, only the person who shared the post will see the total number of likes it gets.”
It’s an interesting experiment – Instagram, in particular, has become known for the way in which users focus on portraying a perfect image of themselves, often distorting reality for the sake of likes and shares. In fact, there’s a whole subreddit dedicated to examples of such – on r/Instagramreality, people share images of models who are clearly posting altered images, with bent buildings and objects in the background often revealing the truth.
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