On Tuesday, the social media giant Instagram announced that the platform is going to test hiding the like counts on posted photos. The test is being carried out to try to attempt users to engage with the content that’s being posted, rather than being preoccupied by metrics.
The Hope Is Users Will Pay More Attention To Content
The test, which will be carried out in Canada this month, is going to focus on ensuring that users cannot see the amount of likes a photo has received or the number of views that a video has gotten. While profiles will still be able to access their own metrics, followers will not be able to see the engagement counts through their feed or just by visiting a user’s profile.
The reason for this test is to see if users will feel more comfortable sharing content and expressing themselves if they don’t feel the pressure of needing to receive a certain number of likes. Earlier this week, Buzzfeed News spoke with the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, who said that they want to achieve a less pressurised environment for social sharing.
We do hear people worry about how many like counts they get.Adam Mosseri – Head Of Instagram
In the past, the amount of likes that a certain profile or photo gets has generally been a way of scoping how popular that user is. In turn, the engagement metrics have played a large role in determining how much a social post is promoted on the platform. However, there has been the increasingly common issue of users ‘buying’ likes and followers to boost their profiles. While the follower count may be high, these profiles usually have low amounts of engagement, which is leaving sponsors and organisations wondering which influencers to trust.
Will This Change Instagram Influencers?
That being said, it’s important to consider how hiding the like counts on photos could influence the new age of ‘Instagram influencers’. Many influencers are deemed worthy of their profiles according to how many likes their photos get, which is a metric that sponsorship companies pay a large amount of attention to when seeking to promote services or products.
It’s safe to say that, as Instagram has vastly grown in popularity, engagement metrics do play a part in just how much a user may engage with the platform.
Many users have noted that posting on social media feels like a ‘race for likes’, as Jill Murphy – editor-in-chief of Common Sense Media – has stated. When somebody gets a lot of likes, they tend to feel more popular and gain enthusiasm in sharing on the platform. Though, if somebody happens to go unnoticed, the want to share and express themselves may plummet. This sense of not feeling like they’re getting enough attention can, in turn, also majorly influence negative thoughts towards themselves.
How Can This Help Mental Health?
The worth of a person behind a profile isn’t determined by a number on a screen – Instagram seems to be trying to reinforce this. So many people think that the key to getting likes and followers is to put on a facade, which has rather been proven true. People often find that being genuine doesn’t offer them the engagement that they want, or think that they need.
Generally, social media has definitely become somewhat of a competitive landscape. We’re constantly looking out for who has the most followers and what photos are getting the most likes, and then people are trying to copy those efforts in turn to get the engagement themselves. Though, this can majorly make us think negatively about ourselves.
It’s obvious that the user metrics enable, and rather encourage us, to compare ourselves to our peers and to people that we don’t even know. If we’re not getting the engagement that they are, it’s likely that we’re going to feel bad about ourselves and as if we’re not ‘good enough’ for those likes or those followers. Of course, this can all promote further negative thinking and mental health decline. In that respect, it’s a good idea that Instagram is going to be exploring getting rid of engagement metrics at the moment, but it does pose the question of just how this is going to effect audience interaction and user hierarchy for the platform itself.
Though, this seems to be a good start to Mental Health Awareness Month.
So, will Instagram make another big change in the next few months? It’s hard to tell, as the results from the test are still being awaited. However, the company has stated that it’s not opposed to completely getting rid of likes and follower metrics all together.