Remember back in 2019 when Instagram’s Adam Mosseri said the platform would test hiding like counts, everyone thought social media was going to change forever, and then basically nothing changed?
Yeah, we’ve been wondering about that, too.
Two years later, we finally have an update from the Facebook-owned platform about how those tests went and whether or not Instagram is heading toward a like-free future. In a new statement Wednesday, Instagram said it discovered through its tests that some users did indeed find hidden like counts beneficial, but others, unsurprisingly, did not.
Now, Instagram says it is conducting new tests. This time it wants to see what will happen if it gives users more say in whether they see like counts or not. It is also testing an option that would let users turn off their own likes.
Here’s the full statement from a Facebook company spokesperson:
“In 2019, we started hiding like counts for a small group of people to understand if it lessens some pressure when posting to Instagram. Some people found this beneficial but some still wanted to see like counts so they could track what’s popular. So we’re testing a new option lets you decide the experience that’s best for you — whether that’s choosing not to see like counts on anyone else’s posts, turning them off for your own posts, or keeping the original experience. We’re testing this on Instagram to start, but we’re also exploring a similar experience for Facebook. We will learn from this new small test and have more to share soon.”
As for what’s taking so long, Instagram said it had to prioritize other work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Critics of social media have long pointed out that the desire for likes and shares can have a negative impact on mental well-being, particularly among young people who may feel anxious or depressed if their posts fail to attract likes.
But reimagining top social media platforms without likes is no easy task. Not only are likes the social currency of the 21st century, they’re a key engagement signal for advertisers—i.e. the people who pay the bills. Moreover, Instagram surely doesn’t want to make drastic changes that would risk alienating users at a time when young people are already flocking to competitors like TikTok.
For now, don’t expect major changes on this front. The new test is global but small, according to Instagram. The company says it will share updates on the test when it has them.