Instagram is expanding its testing of a new policy hiding the number of ‘likes’ received by a post, from an initial set of countries to select users in the rest of the world. It could be the final step in testing before the change is applied to all of the platform’s users worldwide, according to The Independent.
The change, first tested in Ireland, Italy, Japan, and a few other nations, is intended to promote mental health, particularly for young users. The company says it will lead users to focus on content instead of feedback. Social media platforms have increasingly faced criticism over their effects on mental health and social interactions.
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri tweeted:
“Our interest in hiding likes really is just to depressurize Instagram for young people. It’ll likely effect how much some people engage on Instagram, probably liking a bit less and posting a bit more, but the main thing we’re trying to learn is how this effects how people feel.”
Like counts for posts will now be private, visible only to the user that posted content. Other users will be able to see the names of users that have liked a post, but won’t be able to see the number of likes, short of counting the names themselves.
While praised by some, the move has already sparked a backlash.
Emerging artists say that having their work become visibly popular on the platform gets it shared, and ultimately leads to purchases. For them, likes are a way to reach new viewers, and create a more democratic space for artists just starting out.
“Without likes, recognition in the art world returns to who you know or subjective elitist tastes,” artist Peter DeLuce told The Guardian.
Social media influencers depend directly on their popularity to partner with companies for advertising deals, in a growing market that’s projected to become a $6.5 billion industry by 2020. The number of likes allows them to attract sponsorships for posting.
And yet, even among influencers, some believe the changes could be positive. A 2018 study by influencer marketing platform HYPR, found that 64 percent had admitted to buying likes. Some believe that the change will help those with a real following, hurting only those that manipulate their number of likes or followers.
Last week at the Wired25 event, Mosseri said:
“We will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s well-being and health.”
However, while the change could reduce overall ad spending on Instagram, it also may lead companies to use official Instagram ads instead of sponsoring posts from influencers.
In another tweet, Mosseri acknowledged that likes provide an important measure of reach for influencers and marketers, and suggested the platform may provide other ways of gauging a post’s reach.