Instagram has announced that they are trialling the removal of Like counts from their posts. This means that your followers will not be able to see how many people like your post. However, the creator is still able to click on to view who liked the post itself. This is currently being trialled in Canada, alongside a redesigned profile in which the quantity of followers is less visible than it is currently.
From what I understand, the aim of this experiment is to target the negative effects that social media numbers have upon mental health, whilst encouraging a more direct appreciation of the content being shared and posted. Whilst this certainly gestures towards a positive improvement of the platform, I’m unsure just how much of an impact this will have should it be rolled out.
Removing visible numbers from followers may be a good step towards destabilising the numbers game, but how much will it achieve? Whilst viewers might not see the numbers, I personally believe that it is the content itself which is more damaging for the follower. The numbers seemingly have more of an impact upon the creator, and as far as I can tell the creator is still able to access who has liked their post, and hence the number of likes it has attained. Having your lifestyle chalked up to a number of likes is perhaps more damaging than seeing this applied to another creator. You might not be able to compare your numbers to another, but you can still see posts that promote a ‘better’ lifestyle than yours or which create a sense of inferiority and exclusion.
Likes are not the only problem on Instagram, often the comment sections available on posts can be susceptible to cyber bullying. There can often be some really nasty comments posted underneath your content, and whilst you might have an array of positive comments, the negative few always seem to stand out. Comments offer a great level of engagement, but if Instagram is aiming for a platform that is healthier and kinder to creators, my instinct would be to look at the comment sections. I don’t necessarily think it would be beneficial to disable comments or to rigorously police them but ‘haters’ on Instagram contribute to a much larger problem within the platform.
In addition to this, the engagements that posts receive, often measured through likes, is a vital aspect of social media marketing. Many Influencers attain brand deals or sponsorships through the numbers they flaunt on their platform. Could this new development be detrimental to the way that Influencers operate? If anything, Influencers not having their numbers visible may remove some of the transparency regarding sponsored ads and brand deals. If as an audience you are unable to see how many likes something has gained, there is no clear indication of how much the Influencer might have been offered to promote it. This might force Influencers to get creative with their content, but what else can they do?
However, it is great to see a large social media platform taking steps towards improving their platform for the mental health of their audience, rather than the weight of their wallet. Rumour has it that Instagram isn’t alone in this, and that Twitter is considering a similar approach to their own platform. I’m genuinely intrigued as to how the trial will pan out, and what kinds of impact this might have upon their audience and their business. This could very well force modern celebrities to adapt to a new business model, or even revert to a more ‘traditional’ celebrity lifestyle. Could this be the death of the Influencer?