Instagram might be planning to implement a small design change that could go a long way to promote users' social and digital well-being.
With this change, only a person who shares a post will see the total number of likes it gets. Hiding like counts could decrease herd mentality and lessen the impact of a phenomenon called "feedback loop," the drug of all social media, so to speak.
It could also lessen the sense of competition on Instagram, wherein "likes" signifies popularity, reach, and other desirable social qualities. Finally, it could encourage creators to post content that's authentic instead of being motivated by the potential number of likes they could garner.
Instagram Might Hide Likes
Researcher and software engineer Jane Manchun Wong first discovered the design change; she's proven herself a consummate reverse engineering expert by discovering a handful of hidden features on other apps, too, including Facebook and Twitter. As TechCrunch reports, Wong pulled it from Instagram's Android code and generated screenshots to show the design change in action, which are below:
The leftmost screenshot shows an Instagram feed post without a like counter, just a several faces and names of people who've liked it. Only a post's original author can see the number of likes it's gotten and nobody else. Many users, especially those who've reached "influencer" status, often delete posts that don't get enough likes. If the like counts are hidden, they might be more willing to post since there's less pressure to garner likes.
Feature Not In Testing
A spokesperson for Instagram has confirmed that this design is part of an internal prototype it hasn't made visible to the public yet. It's also currently not in testing.
"We're not testing this at the moment, but exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is something we're always thinking about," the spokesperson said. Previously reported features such as video calling, Stories soundtrack, and a Time Well Spent dashboard were all released eventually. Chances are Instagram does the same for the design change in question.
Whether or not it's coming remains uncertain, but it's easy to imagine how this could positively impact Instagram users and the platform altogether. There's a growing belief that like counts can be counterproductive and even harmful to users. In fact, one of the biggest reasons why Instagram launched Stories is to move away from the likes system. Snapchat has never shown like counts or even follower counts, which has made it a safe space for creators, but a less lucrative platform for influencers.