It’s a sad state of affairs that so many social media users tend to base self-worth on how many “likes” their post garners, but Instagram — the platform of choice for today’s cultural influencers — may be trying to change that.
App engineer Jane Manchun Wong tweeted some interesting information she uncovered Thursday while parsing Instagram’s back-end. Apparently, “The Gram” has a setting written in its code that would hide the “like” count from audiences, making them only visible to the user who shared the post.
“We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get,” a notification from Instagram reads. “During this test, only the person who shared a post will see the total number of likes it gets.”
Instagram says they have no plans to launch the feature just yet. “We’re not testing this at the moment, but exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is something we’re always thinking about,” an Instagram spokesperson tells The Verge.
Nevertheless, the timing of the discovering is intriguing: Earlier this week, the Information Commissioner’s Office, a data watchdog agency in the UK, suggested that social media networks refrain from using “nudge techniques,” such as the “like” button, which encourages kids to share more and more of what could be private and sensitive information about themselves.
For many, hidden “likes” could provide some peace of mind: No more obsessively checking your phone for notifications after a post, or lamenting that not enough of your followers appreciates your internet presence. But for those whose entire career is hinged on a follower count, social engagement and, yes, “likes,” the change could transform how influencers measure their value to brands.
“I think it would affect my business,” says beauty influencer Nanite Jean-Aimee, whose account @melaninmakeup has some 12,200 followers. “The more engagement you have the higher chance of you getting more sponsorships and collaborations.”
Jean-Aimee says many users will buy faux followers (who do not like or comment on posts) to attract lax brands that “don’t take their time to really analyze engagement in relation to followers” — pointing out that users with tens of thousands of followers but only a few hundred likes is usually red-flag for a bought audience. But for her, audience interaction is a big selling point.
“Many brands work with me because of my engagement,” she tells The Post. “I know quite a few people with half my following working with big brands because they get like 1,000 likes per post.”
Dara Pollak’s brand @skinnypignyc boasts nearly 100,000 followers, but she doesn’t seem as concerned. In fact, she suggests that the change could be good for business.
“If a brand wants to know what your likes are, they can ask you for a screenshot which is something they do already for stories, impressions, etc,” she tells The Post, adding that it could help even out the playing field among influencers.
“The brand [will have to] do a bit more research into who is representing them instead of picking only the ones with high numbers,” says Pollak.
Her hope is that the change would give Instagram culture something it’s so desperately lacked lately: “authenticity.”
This story originally appeared in the New York Post.