Instagram makes number of likes invisible

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Instagram makes number of likes invisible

Instagram launched a test run of removing the number of likes last week. Photo via Max Pixel.

Instagram launched a test run of removing the number of likes last week. Photo via Max Pixel.

Instagram launched a test run of removing the number of likes last week. Photo via Max Pixel.

Instagram launched a test run of removing the number of likes last week. Photo via Max Pixel.

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During high school and her early years of college, Hannah Shambro, a senior in the College of Health Sciences, said she spent a lot of time thinking about Instagram.

Shambro said she had a tendency to hyper-focus on the response her posts received on the platform, and often edited or removed posts that she looked back at and felt negatively about or that did not perform well.

“It was like a constant shortlist that I would shuffle through my head,” Shambro said. “Like, ‘Okay, this is getting a lot of likes right now, I should hit 200,’ or, ‘This looks really good next to this photo when you look at my whole feed,’ or, ‘This caption’s really funny, people think this is really funny.’”

Shambro is far from alone in describing the mental impact that receiving likes and validation from others had on her.

Last week, Instagram test launched a change in the United States, hiding the number of likes a post receives. While the individual or account that posts a photo can see its total number of likes, others that view an account cannot see that number.

According to Business Insider, Instagram is currently implementing the update for a test group of users in the United States. The platform began hiding likes in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy and Japan back in July.

The change is temporary, as Instagram monitors how its users react. According to Wired, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said the change is intended to put human well-being ahead of corporate interests.

Caroline Shurson, a sophomore in the College of Nursing, said she hopes the update does not become permanent, but she understands the potential benefits.

“I think it’s kind of nice because a lot of people base their social status on how many likes they get on Instagram,” she said.

Shurson said she is not an avid user of Instagram as she only uses the app a couple times per week, but she still likes the like count feature of the app.

As a public relations major, Maggie Abboud, a senior in the College of Communication, said that while the removal of public like counts is likely beneficial for encouraging users to focus on content they want to post rather than what will gather the most likes, she understands the struggles this update could place on many companies.

Because it is possible to “buy followers,” Abboud said, the public like count was able to show legitimate engagement.

“I guess from a PR standpoint, it’s good for the content of the messaging, … but I think it could also be bad in terms of proving how legitimate your business is on Instagram,” Abboud said. “It won’t show how many people actually engage with you.”

Nonetheless, Abboud said she personally believes Instagram’s update is a good idea. Instagram likes can create a society of people that understand personal value based on others’ opinions. She compared this to an episode of British science fiction series “Black Mirror” where people live in a world based on a ranking system.

Like Abboud and Shurson, Shambro said she understands the positives and negatives of the update.

“I think it’s an argument that I could defend either way,” Shambro said. “I guess it just really depends … because some people may not even notice it. But I know that since it’s a huge platform for a lot of people — especially if you’re a YouTuber or something and you dedicate a lot of your time and energy to pleasing your fans — then it could be something that is troublesome.”

Instagram is still trying out the new system. Whether or not it will become a permanent feature is still undetermined.

“I don’t think I would mind it if it became permanent,” Shambro said. “It would be something that I would have to get used to, but in the same vein, it would be beneficial to eliminate that level of comparison that people put on themselves when it comes to looking at each other’s photos and looking at the number of likes.”

This story was written by Kelli Arseneau. She can be reached at kelli.arseneau@marquette.edu. She can be reached on Twitter at @ArseneauKelli.

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