Hidden Likes Test is About People First
On November 8 at the Wired25 Conference in San Francisco, Instagram’s Adam Mosseri made an announcement. Instagram will be testing its hidden likes feature in the United States for some users. This feature has been tested for the last five months in seven countries including Canada, Australia, and Japan. Some users in these countries have not been able to see the total number of likes their posts received.
According to Mosseri, this has everything to do with the well being of Instagram users. Mosseri has taken this issue seriously since joining the company in October of 2018. Mosseri stated “we are always going to put the people first. That’s one of our core values at Instagram in how we approach product development, are people first, simplicity and craft.”
“It’s about young people,” Mosseri said. He also said, “the idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, give people more space.”
This falls in line with something else Mosseri spoke about during interview, bullying. Mosseri, noting, of course, that bullying has been around before Instagram. He believes Instagram is in a position to lead on the issue of bullying and suggested that Instagram is asking the important questions.
One of those questions: are we good for people? It seems Instagram is positioning themselves as an ethical leader in the industry.
Maybe this is why he chose Tracee Ellis Ross, of Blackish and Girlfriends fame, with whom to share the stage.
Ellis Ross has had a celebrity account since 2011. She is now the CEO of a hair company, Pattern, making her a business owner on the platform as well. She quipped, “as much as I love a high roller, I think it has adverse effects. It creates a culture that isn’t helpful for well-being and isn’t fruitful for creative energy.”
This is a big move. Politicians, brands, companies, and influencers use likes to measure success and popularity. Yet, in 2017 the Royal Society for Public Health released a study linking social media and likes to negative self-image especially among young users.
How will the private likes test work
For those users in the test, the number next to the heart icon that indicates a number of likes will be gone. These users will still be able to see who has liked their posts.
However, their followers will not know the total number of likes the post received. It is not clear how many users in the U.S. will be part of this test.
In these other countries, the test users saw a message at the top of their account. There is no word whether U.S. users will get that notice. Either way, you will know if you are in the test if your total number of likes is no longer next to the heart.
Will this change how we use Instagram?
Instagram has not released the results of the private likes test from the seven countries. Therefore, we cannot say if and how it will impact social media use. Nor can we say if it will impact the mental health of the users. We can, however, assume there are some interesting data coming out of the tests in those countries since the test is moving to Instagram’s home and biggest market.
Many celebrities have spoken out for and against Instagram’s move. Nicki Minaj and Rico Nasty have come out against it. Nicki Minaj stating she will stop using Instagram and Rico Nasty suggesting it would “kill Instagram” then comparing it to the defunct MySpace.
On Twitter, Instagram acknowledged this was an impactful move. They wrote, “we understand that like counts are important for many creators, and we are actively thinking through ways for creators to communicate value to their partners.”
Much is to be determined. But this week each of us will find out if we are part of the next phase of Instagram’s hidden likes testing.