Is Instagram’s removal of likes the best thing the platform has ever done for creativity or will it be detrimental for its users and the industry? We look at how the platform’s much-debated move will affect our creativity, mental health, and social media usage…
Felt cute…might delete later. Everyone has experienced it, the tense moment when you tap share and it is out for the world to see. Staring at the photo until it reaches an acceptable amount of likes for you to feel satisfied that is in fact, a nice photo. Or perhaps you have a huge following already in which case you’re more concerned with whether your post will reach the explore page, as opposed to making triple figures. Maybe, you are the Jennifer Anistons of the world and have the app for a day, post a picture and break it altogether…Hi Instagram!
So what happens when Instagram decides to remove its likes? Recent updates show that Instagram are testing hiding likes globally to depressurise the platform and support its users’ mental health. Users will still be able to see how many likes they have but these will be hidden from their followers.
In the world of social media, likes have become a commodity, a form of currency. Influencer marketing has thrived off engagement to promote brands and drive sales. We must ask ourselves though, what constitutes a trend? What makes that handbag, outfit, puppy or quote so popular?
“Likes have typically been a bragging right for fashion brands on Instagram, because it’s become a symbol of success…The psychology of this is that consumers like posts that other people like.” Gagliese 2019
Before the rise of social media, fashion relied more heavily on print advertisements and catwalks to wow shoppers. We have now seen a shift towards digital advertising, and a bigger push for virtual experiences to take over trend-setting. Who did we trust before this? Your boyfriend impatiently waiting in the changing room reassuring you that the dress you’ve tried on is flattering? Regardless, trends have always been tied to popularity. And how do we validate popularity in this day and age? Likes.
The real message here, however, is that we shouldn’t instantly translate likes into validation. Many creatives are overlooked because they haven’t yet grown their platform, yet that doesn’t mean their work is not great or credible. The removal of likes is bound to flare creativity as users without the validation of likes will have to become much more creative and authentic in curating content – this will open up a more level playing field for the creative industry.
“I definitely feel like I don’t really check the number of likes an image gets anymore, because it’s actually two steps to find the number of likes. The thinking behind hiding [likes] or making it not the first thing we see is really just to free up expression and creativity.” – Eva Chen – Director of fashion partnerships, 2019
Hiding likes will shift the platform to become more focused on reach as opposed to engagement. It will embody a passive space for brands to grow their network. Higher pressure will be placed on resharing stories and making adverts to achieve this growth, whilst comments will become yet another source of satisfying users egos.
On the plus side, once it is finally understood that likes do not account for personal worth, users will be less restricted and feel more confident to post as they wish, wear that risky dress and start their own trends… Creativity, individuality, and confidence will see a boost and Instagram may just return to what it once set out to be.
Do you agree with the removal of likes or would you like to see them brought back? Let us know your thoughts on Instagram @debutmagazineuk
Words by Aleah Aberdeen @aleah_aberdeen
The UK's first Career & Lifestyle Magazine for women in the Creative and Media industries.