Instagram Likes: Friends or Foes?

Instagram is slowly testing the removal of likes. Sound the alarm! So far the Facebook-owned app has rolled out this new feature in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, Japan, and Brazil. Users in those countries can no longer see the number of likes other people’s photos are receiving, but can still access their own by clicking a link under their uploaded photo. When I first heard this news I was actually a bit frustrated — I like to see how many likes my photos are getting, as do many others. However, that is still possible.


You may be wondering, what this means for influencers since their primary sources of income are from social media. Michelle Reed, a 21-year-old influencer, told the Daily News that “if comments still exist, I think they will become the primary measure of campaign success. And honestly, that’s a good thing! Maybe more authentic influencers will have more brand opportunities.” The removal of likes is not the destruction of social media as a profitable platform — brands and influencers will just find new ways to value and work their system.


Instagram was introduced to me in the sixth grade. Back in the days of 2011, it worked more like a Snapchat story, where you posted a picture you just took and that was it. But as time passed it evolved into the platform that we know today. People started caring more about what they posted, what comments they got, and of course, the number of likes. I was introduced to Instagram as a pre-teen, so I had some time without this ‘value system’ and know that my like count does not contribute to my self-worth. This might not be true for those growing up now.


A study with teenagers aged 13-18 from the UCLA Brain Mapping Center found that more likes received increased activity in the center of the brain. The study shows that receiving likes from people brings pleasure, so Instagram removing the likes could decrease this pleasure rush. But since the user will still be able to access their own number, the satisfaction and positive brain activity they receive from likes are still accessible. If this new feature were to be implemented on a global scale, what should diminish is the comparison to other peoples images that hurt one’s confidence and self-esteem.


Instagram removing the like count is beneficial for youth today as they cannot judge each other based on likes, and therefore the social merit of likes should devalue. This obviously does not get rid of people comparing themselves to others, but it’s a step in the right direction, and I’ll take that as a win.