How Do People Feel About Instagram’s Decision to Hide “Likes”?

By Toby Cox / 21 November 2019

It’s official: Instagram is nixing public “like” counts in the U.S., and people have mixed opinions about the platform’s decision, according to a new survey from The Manifest. Influencers have either publicly expressed discontent with the decision or applauded the platform’s move to address the mental health concerns correlated with likes and the popularity contests they inspire. But what does the average person think about a life without likes?

Instagram content receives an estimated 4.2 billion likes every day, but now, users won’t be able to see any likes except their own.

On November 8, 2019, Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri confirmed that the platform will start hiding likes for users in the U.S. The new likeless Instagram has inspired a variety of reactions, especially among celebrities and influencers with large Instagram followings

Nicki Minaj announced on Twitter that she would stop using Instagram.

Nicki Minaj announced that she would stop using Instagram and wondered how her life might be different if she stopped using the app.

Minaj wrote, “I’m not posting on [Instagram] after this week cuz they removing the likes. Hmmmm what should I get into now? Think of all the time I’ll have with my new life.”

Cardi B questioned why the platform was only getting rid of only likes and not comments if the purpose of the decision is to address mental health concerns. 

Kim Kardashian West supported the decision but acknowledged that removing likes will make it more difficult for influencers who depend on their like count to measure the success of their content

Minaj has approximately 108 million Instagram followers, Cardi B has 54.5 million, and Kardashian West has 152 million, and each of their posts boasts more than a million likes. They, like other celebrities and influencers, use the platform to build their personal brand and score partnerships with businesses, using likes as a way to measure their success.

But what about people with significantly smaller followings who don’t use the platform for fame or income?

The Manifest surveyed 502 people to find out if they agreed with Instagram’s decision to get rid of “likes.”

Do People Agree With Instagram's Decision to Hide Likes?

We found that most people don’t really care

Our Findings

  • More than half of people (55%) don’t have an opinion on Instagram’s decision to get rid of “likes," suggesting they don't actually care about the platform's decision.
  • One in four people (25%) disagree with Instagram’s decision to get rid of likes.
  • One in five people (20%) agree with Instagram’s decision to go “likeless.”

Most People Don’t Actually Care If Instagram Hides Likes

Instagram hiding likes is old news for people in other countries; the platform started experimenting with removing like counts in April 2019 for users in Canada and then those in Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. 

As users in the U.S. begin to see like counts from other people’s posts disappear, users from around the world offer reassurance that life will go on as normal. 

For example, Instagram user kvacs01 commented on Ellen DeGeneres’ post about Instagram’s decision, “We haven’t had likes in Canada in many months … hasn’t even made a difference to us!” 

Ellen DeGeneres dedicated a segment of her show to talking about the recent decision.

This outlook seems to be the most popular. 

More than half of people (55%) do not have an opinion on Instagram’s decision to get rid of “likes,” suggesting the decision won’t impact their lives, whether they use Instagram or not.

55% of people do not have an opinion on Instagram's decision.

Some experts say this new feature shouldn't impact most businesses, especially if they don't only rely on social media for their web presence. 

"You own your site; you own your email list — that’s probably where your priorities should be," said Michelle Garrett, a public relations consultant. "Of course, you should be on social, but you should focus more on the channels you own."

Similarly, Michael Anderson, a marketing specialist at GeoJango Maps, said this won’t impact his or his company’s use of the platform. 

“For everyday users, it'll probably have little impact aside from some egos being hurt,” Anderson said. “Influencers who have spent years working on building up their like count will probably suffer as a result, but for everyday users, it certainly won't be the end of the world.” 

Celebrities and influencers may continue to wonder what this new rollout means for them, but most users can prepare for their lives to be unchanged.

Supporters Hope That Hiding Likes Will Improve Users’ Mental Health

One-in-five people (20%) agree with Instagram’s decision to hide like counts. 

Many people, including celebrities and influencers, have applauded the platform’s move to address the self-esteem-related issues that stem from the validation likes offer. 

For example, comedian Whitney Cummings posted on Twitter: “Instagram is hiding likes now and I have not bullied myself all day. Is this what self-esteem feels like?” 

Comedian Whitney Cummings Tweet about the new interface received more than 1.5K likes.

The correlation between social media, depression, and self-esteem punctuate conversations about the impact of social media on users’ mental health. 

Some Instagram users feel pressure to create “perfect” posts and gauge the value of their content solely on the number of likes. 

For example, Kerianne Vianden, a travel writer at Hotels4Teams, describes herself as an avid Instagram user with a little more than 1,000 followers and spends a few hours on the app every day. Similar to many users, Vianden felt anxiety around Instagram’s like count even though she only uses it recreationally. 

“Unfortunately, the number of likes on a picture has become something we are either proud or embarrassed of,” Vianden said. “In the past, if it's been 10 minutes and I only get two likes, I'd delete the picture so no one could see how bad it was doing, even if I really loved the picture.”

In the past, if it's been 10 minutes and I only get two likes, I'd delete the picture so no one could see how bad it was doing, even if I really loved the picture.

Vianden looks forward to the new, likeless Instagram and said she’s likely to use it more now that the like count of posts is private. She is curious, however, how this new interface will affect influencers or others who have built personal brands and businesses around their ability to collect high numbers of Instagram likes.

The anxiety average users feel around social media is also felt by influencers who often feel pressure to only post content they know will receive a lot of likes. 

For example, Amber Faust is a blogger and Instagram influencer with more than 200,000 followers. She said she’s also looking forward to a likeless Instagram. 

Amber Faust's Instagram is an expansion of her lifestyle blog and features photos of her family.

Faust has built a family-oriented lifestyle brand through her blog and images she posts on Instagram. Her posts usually get thousands of likes, but she’s looking forward to what she calls “a life without likes.” 

“I miss posting things I love and care about that just don’t bring in the likes that my other photos bring in,” Faust said. “I think it will bring Instagram back to its roots [and] help make the platform more authentic.” 

I think it will bring Instagram back to its roots [and] help make the platform more authentic.

Influencers such as Faust think they will have more room to post different kinds of content that may align with their interests but may not have garnered as many likes in the past.

People from average users to influencers and celebrities are hopeful that Instagram’s experiment will offer psychological benefits to its users and relief from the popularity contests that likes inspire. 

Dissenters Ask: Why Not Nix Comments, Too?

While some applaud Instagram’s move to ditch likes, others have expressed discontent: 25% disagree with Instagram’s decision to hide likes. 

People have questioned the platform’s true intentions: If the goal is to address the mental health concerns associated with like counts, why not also nix comments?

Jax Taylor expressed that if Instagram is hiding likes, it should also hide comments.

“I personally think they should of got rid of comments on Instagram instead of likes. If you’re trying to stop bullying I think it would make more sense but that’s me,” wrote Twitter user and television personality Jax Taylor.

Others, including Cardi B and Ellen Degeneres, expressed similar thoughts. John Frigo, Influencer Manager at MySupplementStore, wondered how much good this would do if users can still see their own likes. 

“If you post something and get one like, you’ll still know you got one like, and you can still be depressed about it,” Frigo said. “It’s just everyone at school won’t necessarily know you only got one like.”

Frigo said that removing likes doesn’t protect users’ self-esteem because people can still see their own like count.

The decision to remove likes may not have as much of an impact on influencers as the debate has made it seem, though. A high number of likes doesn't necessarily indicate a successful influencer.

“Likes were always a poor indicator of an influencer I’d want to work with anyway since they are easily bought and really mean nothing,” Frigo said. “Comments are a much better sign of engagement.”

Comments are a much better sign of engagement.

Frigo considers “likes” to be a vanity metric and predicts comments to become the new signal of engagement for influencers. 

Instagram’s Decision to Hide Likes Will Not Be the End of the World for Most Users

Most average users don’t have an opinion on Instagram's decision to hide likes, suggesting their lives will remain unchanged with or without likes. 

Influencers will have to rethink what engagement means for them but will still be able to rely on comments and private likes to gauge their success. Influencers may even experience relief and a sense of freedom to post content they want to post instead of what they think will attract likes. 

Most users and experts agree that this decision will ultimately lead to a more “authentic” platform that values the content itself rather than the number of people who took time out of their busy day to double-tap.

About the Survey

This study was conducted using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of 502 people in the U.S. The survey ran the week of Nov. 11, 2019.

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