A quick read through some people’s reactions to Instagram’s recent announcement regarding likes made me realize that there is actually a misunderstanding about what the announcement was in the first place. No, Instagram is not removing the feature that allows you to like people’s posts. So do not worry – you can continue liking every single post by your celebrity crush. However, you will not be able to see the number of people who have done the same. Only the owners of accounts would be able to see the number of likes their content received.
“Likes on Instagram are a form of capital that speaks to one’s value and credibility.”
Countries like Canada, Japan and Brazil have already implemented this change. Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri announced that this move is an attempt to de-pressurise their social space – to see Instagram shift from the more competitive comparison of number of likes to an emphasis on the content and appreciation of people’s work and art. The potential implications of this feature for U.S. social media culture has a lot people in a roar of conversations and debates.
I cannot help but be skeptical of how this move would affect smaller businesses and growing voices on Instagram. A lot of influencers and businesses benefit directly from the metric system of like counts and earn a living from it. Whether it had been Instagram’s intention or not, it has become a platform from which entertainers, entrepreneurs and content creators can find creative means to market themselves and engage visibly with their audience. Likes on Instagram are a form of capital that speaks to one’s value and credibility.
I am not saying that all accounts that have many likes have great content; we all know that is not true. Nor am I saying that the actual content cannot speak for itself in exclusion to the number of likes it gets. However, when you are a growing business or an influencer, on top of the work you put into creating and marketing your work, users’ ability to see the number of likes you get on posts can speak mounts on people’s continual positive perception of your work.
Instagram is not oblivious to this and they even acknowledged it, promising to come to an alternative of how businesses and content creators can communicate value to their market and audience. Whether or not Instagram ends up making this test permanent in the U.S., it will be interesting to see if they choose to protect businesses and influencers from being negatively impacted by the change.
While Facebook Inc., which owns Instagram, says this change is a ‘fundamental’ one, many people insist that this is one of many ways the company is asserting its power on their market – to have more businesses and content creators pay for ads directly to them. I am not indifferent to some of the positives that can come from reducing the arbitrary measures young people use to define their worth. But, honestly, when it comes to Facebook, there is always something cringy about their ‘well-intended’ initiatives disguising the profit-driven ethic that I have come to associate them with.
Lerato Mensah-Aborampah ’22 is from Maseru, Lesotho. Her major is undecided.