Instagram rolled out a new update this past week that hides the like count on pictures. Instead of seeing 250 people liked your photo it only shows a username and others liked your photo. Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram, explained that the new update was “about creating a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”
For the average Instagram user, I think this is a great move. Many users would only take pictures that they thought would generate the most likes. If the post would not reach a certain number of likes, then the user would delete it. Instagram started as a photo-sharing app where people posted nature pictures, food pictures and anything else the user enjoyed or thought looked pleasing. But people became more obsessed with the number of likes and stopped posting what they thought was pretty. Now when you open Instagram almost every post looks like one another; users figured out the magic formula on how to receive more likes. The like count turned into a popularity contest for everyone to see and compare to every other post on Instagram. Now that the number of likes is hidden, it is harder to compare pictures, and people will not constantly look at their phone waiting for the likes to roll in. Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction. You can post whatever you want without fear of judgment from others and slowly break the grip social media has on so many.
However, the hidden like count is not well received by a rising group on Instagram, influencers. An influencer is someone who has established credibility, and their audience trusts their opinions. Recently, influencer marketing has become a big trend. Instead of traditional ads, companies pay influencers to tell followers about the product and their personal use of the product. Generally, companies seek influencers with many followers and send products in exchange for the influencer featuring it on their social media. With the like count now hidden companies have a harder time finding the influencer who will give them the most return on investment. In a recent survey, 54% of teenagers wanted to become influencers. Kids used to aspire to be doctors, lawyers and astronauts; now social media is such a big part of their lives that they want their job to be scrolling on their phone 24/7 and getting paid.
Unfortunately, hiding the like count does not magically fix the social media problems like jealousy, low self-esteem and fear of missing out (FOMO). Since social media is a platform to interact with others, and people are always trying to one-up each other, there are new metrics to keep an eye on. Instead of looking at likes, people will now look at the number of followers and engagement users receive - - how many followers are commenting and reposting a post.
So, did Instagram help people with social media or just force people to use a different route to determine popularity?