Instagram is considering making likes less visible, and it’s not the only app to do so.
In March, Twitter introduced a prototype app that included, among its new features, hiding the number of likes and retweets. They become visible only when you tap on individual tweets.
In April, Hong Kong-based technology blogger and app researcher Jane Manchun Wong leaked screenshots of the Instagram test. “We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get,” said Instagram in one of the screenshots. The test just shows names of some users who have liked a specific post but not the number of likes.
Does this mean a life without likes?
Not exactly. The likes will still be visible to the person who created the post, just not to their followers and the people viewing the feed.
But even this has been the cause of excitement in a world that’s been deemed unhealthily obsessed with social media likes.
“If I had to start the service again, I probably would not emphasize the follower and like count as much, I don’t think I would even create ‘like’ in the first place,” said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey at TED in Vancouver in April.
“It might be bad news for influencers, but experts say it could be good for our wellbeing,” wrote Brittany Wong on HuffPost.com.
“The worst thing about Instagram might be going away,” read a headline on Gizmodo.
“Exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is
something we’re always thinking about,” an Instagram spokesperson told The Verge.
In May, the feature was rolled out in Canada. It has yet to be seen if the rest of the world will follow.
“Removing the number of likes? Isn’t that the motivation for many, especially those who monetize their pages? I can hear a lot of screams now, especially from the Kardashians,” said Abbey Tomas, a PR practitioner. “Seriously, removing the likes is a game-changer for retail. People will actually need to live IRL to get real likes.”
But should it happen in the Philippines, Tricia Gosingtian-Gabunada, photographer and one of the country’s original fashion bloggers, would welcome the change.
“I’m all for less visible likes/hearts,” Gosingtian-Gabunada tells Lifestyle. “Most people have adjusted their lives to fit—and sometimes cheat —the Instagram algorithm, creating a lot of trust issues, both online and IRL (in real life).
“Social media is both a blessing and a curse. While it will always be a great platform for authentic content, there are some aspects about it that can be manufactured.”
Adds Nixon Sy of MMI Live: “In the Philippines, fans normally follow celebrity or influencers just to get the first crack at everything . . . The more numbers they see, the more they are inclined to follow them.
“If you are running a business, influencer marketing should be integral to your campaign . . . so the number of likes is crucial for your followers to see.”
Louise Antonette Santos, who runs the blog Mommypracticality.com and is a web content head of a multiplatform marketing and events agency, wouldn’t be against it, too.
“The visibility of these numbers somehow influences others to follow an account or like the content,” Santos says. “Without the numbers, I think content consumers will be drawn to the content itself and will be able to assess better if he or she likes the post or not. Consumers will be less distracted by numbers.”
“If the likes are authentic and the engagement is real, it’s okay to show the number of likes,” says PR practitioner Treena Tecson.
But that’s the thing, they’re not always authentic. Which is why Santos thinks hiding the likes could make a difference. “Brands will less likely make likes and views the basis for effectiveness of campaigns or marketing plans.
“These numbers or analytics can become the reasons other account owners or influencers choose the inorganic way of reaching followers.
“Sadly, numbers become the basis of validity or effectiveness of campaigns. The number of likes don’t necessarily translate to sales or influence.”
Jilson Tiu, a photographer and photojournalist who gets a lot of clients through Instagram, is okay with the change, too. “What matters is the quality of the pictures and stories I produce now, and how I connect with people through photographs.”
But Tiu admits that the change could impact his business. “In terms of making a living out of my pictures and gear sponsorship, it’s bad for business. Most companies gauge the number of reach through likes on
Instagram, rather than followers. This will make it hard for them to choose who to tap for projects and stories. But we really should be more focused on the quality of work we produce rather than counting the likes.”
Those whose jobs involve booking influencers and measuring success through social media engagement will have to adjust to new metrics.
“From a PR standpoint, this will actually make our reporting more challenging as the data won’t be as visible,” said Mich del Rosario of Storyscope Strategic Communications Group.
“Currently, likes do matter because they have become engagement metrics in gauging how big the reach is of your campaign using the influencers you tapped,” says PR practitioner EJ Francisco.
“But hopefully, we will move away from this and start to work with microinfluencers who are more fit to talk about our brand and our message, as well as connect with our audience.”
Kim Vargas, also a PR practitioner, adds: “While social media provides a space for us to share our thoughts and pieces of our lives , it has also become a toxic place for people who base their self-worth on validation.
“The culture has conditioned us to share a glossy version of ourselves, one that’s a lot less authentic. Making numbers less visible can help us be more authentic and truthful in the things we share, and not focus so much on what will be accepted.”
“I think it’s a great move by both Instagram and Twitter, because posting a photo or a tweet should be about self-expression, and not about getting validation from others through likes,” Francisco says. “The whole ‘like’ function tends to create a world where people yearn for validation. Making the likes feature less visible will encourage more users to share their true selves without any pressure.”
“I support this, on a level. We can’t have more affirmation-hungry people,” says master calligrapher Fozzy Castro Dayrit. “But I cannot ignore that users click on posts they see to have more likes or shares. And let’s face it, more likes and shares get you out there, don’t they? But people will learn to accept the change when it happens.”