Yesterday, Instagram announced that it has begun global mass beta testing for private like counts — meaning the number of likes on a post will become invisible to anyone other than its owner. It’s been the stuff of whispers for some time, and like non-linear, algorithm-based timelines and problematic Snapchat filters, this new development has got people scratching their heads and asking, “Who would ever want that?”
Instagram claims that the move is motivated by mental health-related reasons and allowing users to express themselves more freely without relying too much on how much attention and engagement they’re getting — which many don’t quite believe.
In their statement, the company said, “We understand that like counts are important for many creators, and we are actively thinking through ways for creators to communicate value to their partners.” A lot of users have been quick to see through this as just another blatant attempt at monetizing their data and content, such as possibly having brands and influencers pay for partnerships and engagement.
While it’s too early to see just how this change will affect Instagram and its userbase as a whole, here’s how we envision some of it will pan out.
It’s a free world — influencers and common folk are now on equal ground. (Okay, not really.)
Instagram without likes will be lawless and chaotic, like Lord of the Flies but for content creators. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and now that we’re all basically on equal footing (that is, if you forget about follower counts and comments, which are safe for now), it’s anybody’s game. Now nobody has to know for sure whether your latest #35mm ‘gram and Chrissy Teigen’s #relatable kitchen slideshow aren’t on the same level, and that’s downright radical. Down with the ruling class, down with engagement as currency, etc.
You now have to turn elsewhere for your daily dose of validation.
Nobody wants to be consumed by a futile quest for social media relevance, but you have to admit that likes are a nice little pick-me-up when you’ve had a hard day, or when you’re doubting yourself. Maybe the number of likes will still be visible to you privately, and you can track them that way, but jury’s still out on whether this will provide the same amount of gratification.
We’ve lost a vital source of celebrity interaction crumbs.
When your favorite show or movie series ends, or your favorite band breaks up, or you just care about certain famous people being in each other’s orbit for some reason, it’s always fun to see “Liked by [insert username here] and 123,456 others” on their posts. Former Harry Potter cast mates checking in on their co-stars? Former EXO members reconciling digitally? Aw, they still ~like~ each other, after all! But now we might never know.
No need to delete pictures that didn’t “do well.”
It happens to the best of us: you’d post something that you really like having on your feet and think is interesting to share, but then people just scroll past it and it doesn’t get as many likes as you thought it would. (That Squidward meme where he’s scrubbing a crude drawing calling him a loser off the Krusty Krab doors comes to mind.) Maybe a good thing about like counts becoming private is that now, if you genuinely like what you posted, you don’t need to delete or archive it anymore — even if it only gets a few hearts.
Teaching professionals have no choice but to assign projects to students that (gasp) actually relate to the subject instead of social media stats.
Remember when school projects meant styrofoam balls and acrylic paint instead of trying to rack up the most amount of likes? These kinds of assignments happen more on Facebook and to a lesser extent Twitter, however, so imagine if likes now meant nothing on all social media platforms — maybe classes can go back to assigning homework where students can apply what they’ve learned for a change.
Double-tapping just won’t be the same.
This move might have just taken the fun out of even the act of liking posts itself — it will feel half-hearted, and you’ll be left wondering: What’s the point? When you ask, “What does this button do?” and the answer you get is, “Nothing,” it’s kind of a disappointment and a half.