21.04 2019 14:08h

Would Hiding Likes Actually Reduce Pressures on Instagram?

Influencers and creators are freaking out over this
Instagram, Instagram News, Instagram tips, Instagram Hiding Likes, Instagram 2019, Social Media News, Social Media Tips, Influencer Marketing, Likes, Engagement, Instagram engagement

Let's say you woke up tomorrow and your Instagram followers couldn’t see the number of likes on your posts. How would this impact your life?

For most of us, it wouldn’t.

But if you're an influencer, content creator or social media manager, or working influencer marketing, things would change drastically. If your livelihood or business depended on your rate of engagement being visible to others, you would be in serious trouble.

Unfortunately, this hypothetical situation could become a reality in the near future. 

Last week reverse-engineering mastermind Jane Manchun Wong tipped off the Internet, when she came across an internal design mock-up within Instagram’s Android code.

“Instagram is testing hiding like count from audiences,” Wong tweeted.

The photo- and video-sharing platform has apparently mocked up a prototype of the app, where the number of likes on permanent posts would only be available to the account owner.

If this new Instagram design was rolled out likes on permanent posts would be hidden from other users, but not account owners.

“We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get. During this test, only the person who shares a post will see the total number of likes it gets,” Instagram notes within the design mock up.

An Instagram spokesperson has, however, denied it is testing a new version of the app that hides likes.

“We're not testing this at the moment, but exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is something we're always thinking about," they said, in an email.

Why would Instagram want to create a version of the app that hides likes from other users?

Throughout the past few years obsession over engagement has become a huge problem on social media – and especially so on Instagram.

While no study has been conducted on how a user’s rate of engagement (the combined number of likes, comments and shares a user amasses, in relation to their number of followers) impacts their mental health, racking up likes and comments on a new post can quickly turn into a digital popularity contest within certain circles. (It isn’t unusual for your average Millennial or Gen-Zer to delete a post if it isn’t well received by followers)

Instagram clearly wants users to focus on uploading content that is meaningful to them, not content that will simply rack up likes (such as "borderline content", which Instagram is currently working to demote on the platform.)  

Influencers are taking drastic measures to rack up likes on the platform.

In the past few years influencers have taken drastic measures to ensure their rates of engagement are kept "high" on Instagram. Engagement pods are one method they use to increase the amount of likes (and comments) on their permanent posts on the platform.

With up to hundreds of members participating in a pod, these groups exist within creator communities for the purpose of increasing engagement when new content is uploaded to the platform.

How do engagement pods work?

Members of these "pods" inform each other when they upload a new post by sharing a link within a group chat. Each group has their own set of rules, but the idea is the members will exchange likes and comments on each other’s content, thereby increasing an account's rate of engagement. 

As engagement pods technically don’t violate Instagram’s Terms of Use, they fall within an ethical grey area. Facebook has worked to remove pods within its own Facebook-owned platforms, including popular messaging app WhatsApp, which is why most pods now live on Russian cloud-based messaging service Telegram.

Instagram seems to want to curb the fixation many users have when it comes to racking up likes. While it can't remove them entirely from the platform, it could theoretically hide them from other users in an attempt to stop Insta-popularity contest.

How would this affect the influencer marketing industry?

If Instagram hide likes, only making them available to an account's owner, brands and marketers would be in for quite the headache.

As likes play an important role in the calculation of an influencer's rate of engagement, not having directly access would mean an influencer would need to directly disclose to potential collaborators, partners or sponsors the number of likes on every single one of the permanent posts. 

While it wouldn’t be impossible to calculate a rate of engagement, it would be a lot more time-consuming and tedious for brands and marketers.

Will Instagram actually hide likes on the platform? And would it help "reduce pressure" on Instagram?

Instagram has made it clear it is not "testing" hiding likes, it is simply "exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram." Only time will tell if they decide to change the app's design and remove a like count at the bottom of a permanent post.

When it comes to reducing pressures, that's a tough call. There are a lot of other factors that can make the platform a stressful place for users (like online bullying, jealousy and cases of "FOMO".)

It would take more than one step to "reduce pressure" within the greater Insta-community. 

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.

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