Why Removing Instagram Likes is a Step in the Right Direction


Instagram’s decision to get rid of a visible like count has come with a good share of controversy. The bold move was released as a trial to a few select countries in mid-November and became worldwide by December. Posts will no longer display the number of likes it has received; instead,  posts will read “liked by [username] and others”. Only the person who posted the photo can see the actual number of likes the post has attained. When news of the trial run was released, the online communities were split into two very distinct groups: those who didn’t understand the need for getting rid of likes, and those who didn’t know why Instagram had not chosen to get rid of them a long time ago. 

On the one hand, people love the likes. Arguably, it has become a staple of Instagram since its debut in 2010. It has become such an important part of the app that it drives the content though.  Is something really worth posting if you don’t think it will get more likes than the last? Instagram has become a matter of “what can I post that will make a lot of people press a button” when it should be about posting whatever the users want. Mia Garlick from Facebook Australia told planthat.com that “[Instagram] hope[s] this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love.” Isn’t that what it’s all about? Instagram is meant to be a platform where people can share photos of things they love. Clouding it with paid promotions and thirst-traps taints the platform completely. Without likes, people will hopefully refocus their social media presence onto things they are excited about posting. 

The matter becomes more complicated when you take into account the fact that some Instagram users earn a stable income based on their like count. The decision to get rid of likes is beneficial for the average Instagram consumer but not for the people who have made a business out of their accounts. Instagram promoters are paid and sponsored based on their like counts and without the likes as a census for an accounts activity, Instagram moguls are afraid that they will no longer be able to make a living out of posting sponsored pictures. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri  said last week at Wired25 that “[Instagram] will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s well-being and health.” Likes are not even an accurate measurement of account activity. The Guardian has reported that “some 64% of influencers admitted to buying likes, a 2018 study from influencer marketing platform HYPR found”. Buying followers and likes online is extremely prevalent on social media. The only thing necessary to start up an Instagram in the age of likes is to have some money available to kickstart some engagement. Instagram has said that they would adapt their business algorithm to look at an accounts’ comments and followers as opposed to the like count, so the influencers will still be able to earn money. 

Overall, I think getting rid of likes is a phenomenal idea. It will depressurize Instagram. Posting photos for the purpose of getting the most likes and winning this sort of competition we’ve created for ourselves will make social media a less toxic place and will enable expression.