When Instagram launched in October 2010, its progressive and nuanced approach to photo-sharing seemed to breathe new life into the global creative community. Instagram dramatically lessening the distance between upstart photographers in Los Angeles and celebrated architects in Tel Aviv, quickly becoming the ultimate connector of opposing worlds. During those exciting moments of social media infancy, the allure of sharing what inspired you reverberated louder than any performance metric ever could. Validation was the furthest thing from the user's collective thoughts. Now, nearly a decade into its existence, Instagram is looking to restore that youthful jubilation that helped the platform ascend in the early 2010s. Months after the company tested hiding "like" counts in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, Italy, and Brazil, the company has decided to expand. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced at WIRED25 this past Friday that testing hiding "likes" would impact the US this week. Although the change is meant to return Instagram to its glory days – when creativity was king – the shift is also fueled by rising global mental health concerns. This change is destined to benefit and impact Generation-Z, a demographic that is coming of age online. But given just how ubiquitous IG has become, make no mistake that this change will affect everyone.
So is it a good thing or a bad thing? The short answer is that it's both. From one perspective, curtailing misleading depictions of immeasurable wealth and unlimited access to life's riches by irresponsible influencers is a good thing. Perhaps it will counteract growing societal woes related to comparison, where we measure our lives against a fundamentally false ideal. Hiding "likes" may also return creativity to the platform. Without the need to fear validation, maybe creatives will post and engage more with what they love, and not just what they're expected to enjoy. Moreover, hiding likes removes the need for acceptance. Users could theoretically post a selfie without the inherent concern of receiving few "likes" or equating the "likes" to their self-worth. For today's youth, this might be the change that keeps them both engaged and healthy on the platform.
There are also some concerns with the impact of hiding public "likes."
Although hiding likes won't impact the entire Instagram user base immediately, a ripple effect has already begun. Some influencers and celebrities are voicing angry concerns over the proposed shift to remove likes. Others have applauded Instagram for prioritizing mental health and taking a stand to combat social anxieties. Along with Instagram re-evaluating its platform to depressurize social structures, take the necessary steps to address your own triggers. It's all par for the course and, frankly, long overdue.