When it comes to Instagram likes for me, pictures with friends rank the highest, then selfies, images of my cat, and food snaps in dead last. Should it concern me that I know this off the top of my head? Maybe— and this obsession with likes, however you feel about it, is an undeniably integral part of our media-oriented world.
Of course, there is nothing inherently harmful about the like count: it shows affirmation for content you enjoy and people you support. But, in a world of picture-perfect everything, it is easy to get caught up in viewing likes as a measure of worth. Problems like narcissism, low self-esteem and anxiety can and do stem from a culture of comparison and unrealistic expectations created by social media.
It seems that Instagram is not in the dark about this, and is experimenting with ways to cope with these issues. The change was noted by Jane Manchun Wong, who highlighted it in a Twitter post accompanied by screenshots. From the screenshots, you can see that on the feed, a couple of profile pictures and names are still displayed, but not the overall number of likes. However, the user is still able to view the like count as well as users who liked the post.
Instagram confirmed with TechCrunch that it was an internal prototype not officially tested on the public: “We’re not testing this at the moment, but exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is something we’re always thinking about.”
So if you’re freaking out, there’s no need! This is just a prototype, and even if implemented, Instagram has no intention of hiding like counts on user profiles. That said, out of sight, out of mind— an update like this might help to take pressure off users who unconsciously or consciously seek unhealthy validation from their like counts.
Additionally, this could discourage herd mentality, where users select content based on likes rather than quality. Instead, the spotlight would be on comments and followers, and could encourage content creators to put out more authentic work rather than pandering.