Instagram widens hidden ‘like counter’ experiment

    Posted on July 22, 2019


    Popular photo-sharing platform Instagram has started an international test to remove the pressures faced by its users by hiding the number of likes a post receives.

    At present, Instagram users can see a cumulative total of the number of people who have liked their photo or video. This has been a feature of the platform since its inception and is one synonymous with the vast majority of social media platforms.

    Many users, no matter their age, use this one metric as a way to show off their popularity and status and research conducted by many people from different fields have concluded that this is having a negative effect on users’ self-esteem and self-worth. Those who do not generate ‘enough’ likes often feel inadequate, with these feelings being the most common in the younger generation.

    Facebook-owned Instagram initially tested the removal of the like counter earlier this year in Canada, and has now decided to expand the test to more countries, before considering whether to make this change a permanent one. As of the tail end of last week, the company confirmed that the test was moved into six additional nations – Australia, Italy, Brazil, New Zealand, Japan and Ireland.

    While the number of likes a post receives is not visible in the main feed, the account holder can still click through to see the number of likes it receives, as well as who liked it, but this will remain hidden from the public. Instead of displaying “[username] and [X] others like this”, Instagram will now be showing “[username] and others like this”.

    According to a statement made by Mia Garlick, who is Facebook’s directory of policy for Australia and New Zealand, the company hopes that the test will help to remove any social pressures surrounding the number of likes a post receives so that the users can continue to focus on sharing what they love.

    These views were shared by Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, when the Canadian test was launched. He stated at the time that the aim was to minimise the stresses of competing for likes and to connect with the people they care about.

    The main goal of this trial is to help users to feel less judged, and Instagram hopes to be able to determine whether this change can shift the focus on to users telling their own personal stories through images and video, instead of just generating as many as likes they can.

    Instagram has also confirmed that this test would not have any impact on the measurement tools used by business accounts and influencers who get paid based on the amount of engagement they receive on each post.

    Alan Littler
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