Following months of will-they-won’t-they, Instagram is rolling out a version of the app that hides the number of likes on photos posted.
Speaking at the WIRED25 Summit in San Francisco this week, Instagram's CEO Adam Mosseri said, “right now we’re testing making 'likes' on accounts private. So you’ll be able to see how many people liked a given photo of yours, but no-one else will." Having already been tested in seven countries including Brazil, Japan and Canada, Mosseri announced they'll be ramping things up by testing across the US from next week. "Not the whole US at once," he said, but the changes will affect groups of users very soon.
WATCH: Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announces that the platform will start hiding likes for US audiences starting next week. It's the latest step in Instagram’s quest to become the safest place on the internet. https://t.co/BGkMG57rdk #WIRED25 pic.twitter.com/WNTyAPVhaD— WIRED (@WIRED) November 9, 2019
Explaining the decision, he said, "it’s about young people. The idea is to try and depressurise Instagram – make it less of a competition and give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love and things that inspire them."
Before it's rolled out worldwide, "we need to see how it affects how people feel about their platform and how it affects how they use the platform," Mosseri said, but it's a good start.
All I can say is, thank GOD. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted time checking to see how a photo was ‘performing’, thinking about why it hadn’t received many likes, debating over whether to archive it or do the dreaded delete-and-repost. I’m never going to get that time back. And what have I got to show for it? Nothing, except a heightened cortisol level, and an Instagram feed that has no connection to how I’m feeling or what I’m doing.
Likes make the whole operation so calculated and clinical. We post at certain times of the day to ensure the maximum audience (either at 9am when people are scrolling on their commutes, or in the early to mid evening when people are scrolling to pass the ad breaks on TV, and never on a Friday night). We only post certain types of pictures - for me, selfies always perform best and so even though I think they’re mindless and self-indulgent, I’ll post them for those sweet, sweet likes.
Instagram's revolutionary move means that the number of likes on photos and videos will be hidden from followers, but it will still allow the account holder to see them. The trial is taking place in a number of countries including Canada, Italy, Ireland and Australia, with more countries rumoured to be next. There’s hope that the change might relieve some of the pressure to perform, as well as redirecting the content posted to be more representative of personal creativity and individual taste, as opposed to cookie-cutter posts of whatever performs well. Plus, measuring our own likability by the number of people who hit a certain button is a dangerous habit we've all pursued a little too vigorously in the past few years.
But it is enough? We’ll still be able to see the number of likes on our own posts, so it’ll still play on our innate desire for validation and acceptance. There just won’t be the fear of public humiliation (which, admittedly, is pretty sweet relief). And of course there’ll still be all the underhanded tactics the big social media giants employ to get us hooked. (Ever noticed how your likes come in bursts, so you don’t get a constant drip of 1 and 2 likes, you’ll suddenly get 20 after hours of silence? Yeah that’s called a variable-ratio reward schedule - a technique also implemented by the gambling industry. And you know when you pull down on your feed to refresh, and it takes a few seconds? That’s nothing to do with your 4G, that’s Instagram playing on our “reward prediction error encoding”. Similar to when the wheels are turning on a slot machine, the 3 seconds it takes for your feed to refresh builds anticipation, our dopamine activity increases and before you know it, you’re back on the app a few minutes later for another hit.) Surely, without addressing these potentially harmful features, we’ll be doomed to succumb to the same fate?
Plus, err, what will happen to all the influencers?
[Via GLAMOUR UK]