Why Instagram only kind of likes having no likes
Future. After a two-year-long study into its effectiveness, Instagram became one of the first major social platforms to give users the ability to turn off like-counts — a move meant to give people control over comparisons. This democratization of user experience may provide both the challenge and unique opportunity for tech companies to push off challenging issues of moderation and bias onto users… who may be more than happy to curate how they use the platforms anyway.
To like or not to like?
Tech industry analyst Casey Newton provided a little context to Instagram’s wishy-washy plan to make its platform a little less competitive by hiding like-counts.
- This week, Instagram announced that it would give users the option to turn off like-counts (on a single post or their entire feed), but also reported that likes would still remain visible by default.
- Instagram has actually been testing the feature since 2019… and it ultimately found that hiding likes doesn’t meaningfully “depressurize” using Instagram.
In a blog post, CEO Adam Mosseri explained: “What we heard from people and experts was that not seeing like counts was beneficial for some, and annoying to others, particularly because people use like counts to get a sense for what’s trending or popular, so we’re giving you the choice.”
Newton notes that by hiding like counts Instagram is moving “away from an influencer-driven social media reality show toward something more intimate and humane.” On the other hand, a 30-year-long Oxford study found that using social platforms didn’t really affect someone’s mental health that much.
According to Newton, Instagram’s experiment proved that people want choice. Whether that means turning off likes, choosing from a menu of algorithms, or turning off toxic chatter during video games, people want to be in the driver’s seat of what kind of experience they have online.