To Like Or Not To Like: Examining Instagram And Facebook's Latest Feature
Say 'aye', if you've ever refrained from posting a picture of yourself simply because you thought it wouldn't get enough likes. Or if you've deleted a picture within 5 minutes of posting, and blamed it on an "Instagram glitch", just because it didn't get enough likes.
We've all struggled with getting a hold of our online personas – but that's something that just might change with Instagram and Facebook's new feature.
Last year, Instagram sent the internet into a tizzy when it announced that it would start testing out a feature which would allow users to control who can see their likes on various posts. And while the app has been sporadic with its testing, as of May 26th, it has finally rolled out the much-awaited, hotly-debated feature for all users. The feature, which has simultaneously been launched on Facebook as well, is an attempt to depressurise people’s experiences on the platform.
Here's how it works. You open settings, you go onto the new posts section, and you have the option of hiding like and view counts. So even if a user has Like Counts enabled, they won't be able to see the number of likes on accounts or posts that have hidden them.
This feature also brings one of the most fascinating aspects of the current human condition to light – an obsession with likes on social media. Likes have been one of those features that you can't live with, but can't live without. A lot of content that people generate tends to be determined by the number of likes they get. Plus, likes help prop up the massively-profitable influencer economy, and, for better or worse, act as a way for influencers to prove their engagement to potential employers. They also determine general trends, and help improve brand engagement as well. So, what happens to, say Instagram businesses and those who have a chunk of their livelihood depending on likes?
Well, nothing much, really. These social media platforms have clearly been mindful of their users' needs, and have made the feature optional, rather than opting for a full blown ban on likes. Those who want to share their likes have the option of doing so, and those who don't want to can choose not to. Everybody wins!
With the way that social media has impacted the mental health of its users, as people become enamoured with the idea of likes and go to some pretty extreme lengths to amass a certain number of likes, this is a welcome move. Removing the like count feature allows the users to focus on the kind of content they create, and almost gives them the freedom to do what they like, as opposed to creating only certain kinds of content that they know would give them likes.
It also opens up a better avenue for expression, as the idea of a virtual popularity contest is nullified, and people have a better shot at making their online personas more authentic as opposed to, well, people please-y. And this certainly helps in a world where authenticity is rare, at least online. One has a better shot at garnering control over their public personas, without having to sacrifice their true selves along the way, and this has become an all-round welcome move from the social media giants.