Instagram Likes

By: Nick Gambino

If you’ve read anything I’ve written about social media then you have a good idea of how I feel about its effect on society as a whole. No, I’m not a full-fledged detractor that thinks we should hit the reset button on every platform. But I do feel there’s a cancer growing across every major social app that has to be dealt with for the mental health of users.

This so-called cancer stems from the perception that a carefully crafted social media page somehow equates to self-worth. If one posts something, maybe a photo, and it garners lots of likes, we’re worthy. If it doesn’t, then it was no good. We are no good. This is terrible, especially for a younger generation that only knows a world dominated by like counts.

Instagram started testing the ability to hide like counts back in 2019. This was promising but added up to little more than a false start. We don’t really know what came of those tests, but Instagram did announce that they were going to start testing the feature again but from a different angle.

The new test, which will only be available to a select number of users, will allow the individual to hide like counts on their own posts from followers or hide like counts on all the posts they see. In other words, they are allowing users to exercise control over the feature, instead of making some blanket change to their platform.

Instagram has stated that they want to take the pressure off users from having to compete for likes and this looks like a step in that direction. But I don’t know why they don’t develop some sort of good faith coalition or code amongst all the majors where they all agree to do away with like counts for good.

The thing is, we don’t need them. If you want to see who liked your post, that’s fine. You should be able to see a list. But by counting them up, you’re assigning a numerical value to that post. You are literally assigning worth to someone’s attempt at being vulnerable. This plays hell on the self-esteem of the poster. It’s a completely arbitrary feature that doesn’t actually fit into the theme of a “social” platform.

If it’s supposed to somewhat mirror real life, then why count likes? If you put on a new outfit, get your hair done, and meet up with friends or go to work, you’d expect a compliment here and there and feel good about it. But when have you ever returned home, sat down, and tallied up how many compliments you received? You wouldn’t do that because that would be silly. How about if you did that every day? That would be unhealthy.

I don’t disagree with allowing individual users to decide if they want to see like counts, I know influencers and others depend on these numbers, but I guess I’d just like to see a pivot away from the popularity contest of it all. Especially for the kids.