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Instagram chief admits hiding likes is a polarizing idea, but it ain’t going away

By Nadeem Sarwar March 5, 2021, 6:21 pm

Earlier this week, some Instagram users noticed that the number of likes on their posts was hidden, which later turned out to be a bug that was quickly fixed. However, it was enough to create a whole lot of online chatter from disgruntled users, especially creators aka influencers. Now, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri has admitted via a short video that the idea of keeping the number of likes private from others is a polarizing idea.

Instagram has been testing hidden likes since 2019

The private likes feature has actually been under the testing phase for over a year now. Instagram says that earlier this week, it accidentally added more people to the test circle due to a bug, hiding the likes count on their posts. However, the folks over at Instagram quickly fixed the issue and restored the likes for users who were unintentionally roped in the test circle.


Late last year, Instagram started testing the ability to hide the number of likes on photos and the number of views generated by a video from the Feed, Profile, and permalink pages. Back then, Instagram revealed that it was testing this feature so that followers would focus more on the content and its quality, rather than getting influenced by the number of likes it gets.

Private likes is a double-edged sword though

The announcement was originally made at Facebook’s F8 conference back in 2019. “It’s because we want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram, and spend a bit more time connecting with the people they care about,” Mosseri was quoted as saying by CNBC back then.

READ MORE: Instagram’s new Live Rooms trick allows four souls to go live simultaneously

Private likes might help ease the social media pressure of being popular, but it might hurt the business prospects too

Despite the gaffe earlier this week, Instagram says the private likes feature is not going away anytime soon. Instead, it will be made available to people who think it is productive and can be useful to them. This will especially come in handy for users who feel the pressure of not being popular enough, and as a result, lose their peace of mind. And this is not a novel observation. A survey conducted by UK’s Royal Society For Public Health actually ranked Instagram as the worst platform for mental health and well-being, leaving behind Snapchat and Facebook to take the undesirable crown.

It also goes without saying that Instagram can be a fiercely competitive platform, especially for creators whose ‘businessworthiness’ is judged by brands based on the net engagement, which in turn is nothing but the number of likes and views their content generates. Hiding the likes count might hurt such creators as businesses might not be able to gauge their popularity, unless they reach out to creators and ask them to disclose their engagement figures – which in turn is an added hassle.


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