How Do You “Like” It?


Mark Zuckerberg. Photo credits: Wikimedia Commons.

Ella Arnold, Editor

Instagram, a popular social media site that makes it possible to share pictures and videos with followers on a “feed,” has gained over 1 billion users since its creation in October of 2010. Owned by Facebook, this media-sharing site announced on April 30th that it will begin running a test in Canada that hides the number of likes a post gets. Instagram, in an official statement, claims that this change is being put into place so that followers will focus on the material being posted, as opposed to the number of likes a post got.

Although the test has not yet been put into place, the experiment will most likely elicit various responses from Instagram users–everything from relief at not having to compete in the popularity contest of social media anymore, to anger at not being able to see how successful a post is.

The banning of like counts could also hurt businesses, because there would be difficulty gauging outreach and success.  Easton Lane, a frequent user of Instagram, believes that if the removal of likes actually went into place, businesses and users alike would suffer. “I think that Zuckerberg [the CEO of Facebook and Instagram] has the right intentions in doing so but that likes are too important to the app to be removed,” says Lane. “For businesses and non-personal accounts, likes are an important gauge of interest and taking those away could make social media advertising tricky…many users would leave the platform and decrease revenue made through social media.”

The details and aspects of the test emerged just a few days after the British Information Commissioner’s Office recommended that “success measurements” such as like counts and streaks on social media platforms should be eliminated in order to protect younger users of media apps. When users begin to measure their self worth based on social media feedback and likes, it can be damaging to their psychological health, according to the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

Despite this, the removal of likes may have an opposite effect than the desired effect of preventing users from being psychologically damaged by social media. According to The Guardian, social media users will become confused by what is influential and what isn’t, and won’t know what to base societal success upon.

The removal of likes also relates to a movement spreading across social media apps–the movement of preventing hate speech and value being attached to social media. For example, “The Christchurch Call” initiative, put into place and backed by New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron, seeks to prevent terrorism and political extremism in social media. With the initiative comes regulations by Facebook, stating that anything in a livestream that goes against Facebook community guidelines can cause the livestream to be blocked. The initiative is not yet part of the American branch of Facebook, because it may go against democratic free speech.

Though Facebook has yet to actually implement these changes to its platform and to Instagram, debates about its effect are still prevalent. The true impacts can only be determined by actually running the test–will users see the change as a ding to their reputations, or will they see it as a refuge from the constantly pressing restrictions placed on them by society?