Instagram Hiding Likes: U.S. Users Have Mixed Emotions About the Move, Survey Finds

Instagram tests hiding likes
Courtesy of Instagram

Instagram this month began a test to hide “likes” for U.S. users, and last week the social platform announced that it will be rolling out the change everywhere in the world.

The move ticked off some big influencers, including Nicki Minaj, who said on Twitter that she’s going to stop posting to Instagram because of the decision. “Hmmmm what should I get into now?” she mused sarcastically. “Think of all the time I’ll have with my new life.” (Minaj hasn’t posted to her Instagram account, which has 108 million followers, since Nov. 9.)

Other celebs have backed Instagram’s switch, including Kim Kardashian West (152 million followers on Instagram), who said at the DealBook conference, “As far as mental health… taking likes away [from posts] would be really beneficial for people.”

But many people don’t think it’s a BFD, either on the positive or negative side: It turns out that a majority of Americans simply don’t care whether Instagram hides likes or not, while a vocal minority are against it and one-fourth approve, according to a new survey.

More than half (55%) of those surveyed said they don’t have an opinion Instagram’s decision, per a survey from The Manifest, a business news and how-to site. About 20% of people supported the decision to hide likes, while 25% oppose the decision, per the survey, which polled 502 U.S. consumers.

Instagram boss Adam Mosseri has claimed the move to hide likes is to reduce stress and anxiety on users: “The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them,” he said at the Wired25 conference earlier this month. Creators will still be able to see like counts on their own posts, but Instagram will not be displaying those publicly.

Note, however, Instagram that is continuing to make follower counts public — arguably an even more important metric for gauging popularity and traction on the platform.

Some industry observers believe Instagram is hiding likes because user engagement on the platform has been deteriorating and that the change does not exactly come from altruistic motives related to the mental health of its users but stems from core business reasons.

“By hiding likes, Instagram will help alleviate the negative backlash that comes from declining organic engagement on a platform over time as well as protect their reputation as Facebook’s more engaging social media platform,” Eduardo Morales, an independent analyst who writes about building businesses Instagram, opined in a blog post. He cited a study by marketing and consulting firm Trust Insights that found an 18% decline in average Instagram engagements — mostly likes — from Jan. 1 to June 29 of this year.

In addition, Instagram, by making likes private, will control the flow of that data. “Monopolized access to our data is great for business, not necessarily for our mental health,” Morales commented.

Others believe the uproar over the issue is much ado about nothing — and that likes are a meaningless “vanity” metric. Instagram’s removal of them will not affect the social-media business ecosystem, said Igor Vaks, founder and CEO of influencer-marketing platform CreatorIQ.

“The creator economy doesn’t need like counts to flourish,” Vaks said. “Brands are increasingly able to tie sales performance to talent programs across social platforms and can use other, sharper performance indicators to evaluate brand awareness, customer engagement, and ambassador effectiveness.”