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August 11, 2021

It’s no secret that social media has grown to play a massive role in our world today. Whether through posting a favorite selfie, updating a relationship status, or sharing a new purchase, we have grown prime to sharing our lives on the internet. 

Instagram has always allowed us to see not only our own likes and comments on our posts, but also those on other users’ content. The platform has been playing around with removing likes from the app for several years — we first blogged about it in 2019 — but recently, Instagram announced that sharing engagements with others is now in the hands of users. 

As of earlier this year, Instagram users can now hide likes from other users on their posts, disable seeing likes on other users’ posts, or keep all the default settings of visible engagements. When viewing a post with limited visibility of likes, it will appear as “liked by others” instead of a numerical value. The owner of the post can click on “others” to see the number of likes.

Why the sudden change? Although meant to be a fun app to share your life, Instagram has recognized that the competition for likes and popularity has created too much pressure on users. More than 500 million people hop onto the app daily, which has created an environment where success and self-worth is determined simply by one number. The hope is that by taking away likes, users will be able to detach from the need for external approval from others.

We tested hiding like counts to see if it might depressurize people’s experience on Instagram,” reads the statement from Instagram. “We’re looking for more ways to give people control over their experience.”

What comes into question is how this could have the opposite effect on brands and influencers. Both types of users measure performance of their own content based on the number of engagements, and brands that hire influencers also use engagement rates to see the value of the influencer’s platform. It’ll be more difficult for a brand to measure an influencer’s impact if they’ve chosen to hide their like count, but because users will still have access to their own engagement data, influencers could always share this information directly with a brand if asked. 

It’s clear that the main purpose of the update is allowing everyone to choose what they can and cannot see, which creates an experience that caters to users’ unique needs. Prior to this change, the app was a “one-size fits all” setup, which is slowly becoming outdated in 2021. 

Instagram taking this step towards a less competitive, pressure-filled site could leave other social networking sites to do the same. These small changes take us back to why these sites were created: the ability to simply to share our favorite selfie, update our relationship status, or show off our newest purchase without the pressure to prove anything to anyone. 

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Nicole Spinosa

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