Instagram has announced they are set to start testing a version of their highly popular platform that will hide the number of ‘likes’ a post has received.

Their motivation to make such a monumental change to their platform is to reduce the competitive nature of the Instagram landscape and make the entire experience “less pressurised”.

In tests sets to run in Canada this week, the Facebook-owned platform will still display posts as normal. However, there will be no accumulated ‘like’ count visible on posts in user’s feeds.

However, account owners will still be able to track individual post metrics by accessing a new menu function.

According to Instagram’s head, Adam Mosseri, the changes are being tested to reduce the obsession with vanity metrics.

“We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about”

This approach is similar to the changes made by Facebook in 2018 to promote ‘meaningful interactions’ and are connected to a wider desire to reduce the negative impacts of social media and encourage a more authentic and enriching experience between friends and family.

What will this mean for Instagram users going forward?

While this test is only in its early stages, and is running in a limited capacity, it does raise a number of questions going forward.

Some of the most obvious include:

  • Will the change have the effect of reducing anxiety, stress and low-self esteem that many studies have linked to social media?
  • Will users be more comfortable posting about their authentic selves when the pressure to hit a ‘like’ threshold is removed?
  • Will this have an impact on the prevalence of online bullying?

While the effects of these changes remains to be seen, there is a clear attempt to pivot Instagram’s brand away from a platform that has become (rightfully or wrongfully) synonymous with vapid self-expression and popularity contests, to one that encourages authenticity without parameters or posturing.

What will this mean for influencers going forward?

If this move has been met with cautious optimism by some, it has sounded alarm bells for influencers who have aligned their professional outcomes with Instagram’s well-established popularity metrics.

Speaking about the proposed changes and their impact on influencer partnerships, an Instagram spokesperson had the following to say:

“We understand that this is important for many creators, and while this test is in exploratory stages, we are thinking through ways for them to communicate value to their brand partners”

However, with influencers hired by companies to promote products and services based on the popularity of their posts, influencer partnerships will certainly come under the microscope if the removal of ‘like’ counts is rolled out to a wider audience.

While the removal of publicly available ‘like’ counts will surely have an impact, it’s currently far too early to tell just how this test would affect users, brands and influencers going forward.