Emma Topp, an Instagram influencer with over fifty thousand followers, scrolled through her morning feed to discover Instagram will be hiding likes from other users. Topp began to wonder how her career would change, particularly how she would gain sponsored content, if Instagram’s policy were to be implemented.
“I think it’ll affect the influencer community greatly,” Topp said. “Instagram is such a huge business tool for a variety of people, and taking away a variable such as likes that is a huge part of measuring engagement leaves you with just visible comments.”
Instagram decided to cover a picture’s like count so people could be more comfortable on social media.
Product of Communications Lead at Instagram Seine Kim said that the plan will change how users see likes on Instagram. With this change, users will only be able to view their own like count, but not the that of other users on the platform. Instagram is currently beta testing the change around the world, Kim said.
“We are testing this with a small number of users globally because we want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves,” Kim said. “This includes helping people focus on the photos and videos they share, not how many likes they get.”
Some students believe that this decision will not benefit influencers.
Taylor Dees ’21 said she feels that taking away likes raises many questions as to how influencers will continue to make their livelihoods.
“I don’t know how [the plan] will work,” Dees said. “I feel like if [influencers’] whole backgrounds and their whole basis of success is [based on] likes, they are not going to be as successful if they don’t have that same backing.”
Dees, who manages a personal account with over 10,000 followers, said she thinks the new plan will benefit those who use the app recreationally. The plan will allow Instagram to return to its original goal of being a free and creative space, rather than a place for business, Dees said.
“I think [the plan] promotes more of what Instagram was initially attempting to be, which is a place where you show what’s going on in your life,” Dees said.
Students say that covering the number of likes will allow more students to freely express themselves on Instagram.
Alanah Dakar ’22 said she is also in favor of Instagram’s new policy because she believes people will be more willing to post without the added worry of a like count.
“I like the idea of getting rid of likes, [and] I think it will give posting on Instagram a new meaning,” Dakar said. “Instead of posting for likes and to show off how many [you] can get, it will be more about posting more genuine content that doesn’t necessarily need tons of likes.”
With the new change, people will be more willing to post photos as a way to connect with others, Dakar said. However, she said she would still be apprehensive to post because of other concerns.
“I don’t think the removal of likes will have any effect on my willingness to post because my worries that come from who likes my picture will just be replaced with worries of who is seeing it,” Dakar said. “[For example,] would they have liked [the post] if likes were there?”
Matthew Lee ’21, who runs the political commentary Instagram account ‘On the Fence,’ said he believes that the plan will alleviate some of the pressures associated with reaching a certain number of likes.
“I think that getting rid of likes does a lot of good because it gets rid of some social pressures to get a lot of likes,” Lee said. “It will [also] help mental health on the platform because it gets rid of the pressure to get a lot of likes.”
Instagram’s new rule may have both advantages and disadvantages to business.
Lee said he does not think that this decision will change businesses, because he thinks people will still remain active on Instagram, regardless.
“I don’t think this will have much of an effect on my blog and others because it is very easy for people to like a photo,” Lee said. “Getting rid of that will not stop the people who are interested from going to the blog.”
Although Topp said she could see the benefits to the new like plan, she disagrees that it will have no effect on the accounts of businesses.
“From a business standpoint, it’s now difficult to compare stats on a surface level to determine who to work with and engagement rates,” Topp said. “I like the idea that it promotes happier mental health and a more positive self-image, but personally, I don’t like the new rule.”
As brand partnerships for Instagram are one of her main sources of income, Topp said that she is concerned about fraudulent users who will take opportunities from real influencers by purchasing followers.
“Anyone [can] buy followers, and look like they have a way larger following on a surface level,” Topp said. “[Then] if a brand truly wants to determine your engagement, you’d have to send them your individual business analytics, which requires an established relationship. It makes the whole transaction more difficult and allows the possibility of fraudulent accounts to come into play.”
Addressing the influencer community on Instagram, Kim said that the platform is working to create solutions so that influencer-brand partnerships will not be negatively affected.
“We understand that like counts are important for many creators, and we are actively working on ways for creators to communicate value to their partners,” Kim said.
Topp said she thinks the plan will ultimately fall flat because of the problems it will cause for businesses and influencers, which make up a significant portion of the platform. Though the feature will be removed, Topp said she has high hopes it will be restored.
“I don’t think it will perform well, as I’ve spoken to people who just use Instagram for fun and still love seeing their likes,” Topp said. “I’m hoping it’ll be phased out in the new update for the entire community.”