Instagram will test hiding the like count from photos, and view counts from videos, in an attempt to get users to pay attention to the content itself and not their associated engagement metrics, the Facebook-owned app declared Tuesday.
In the test, followers won’t see total likes on photos, or views counts on videos, in their Instagram feeds or once visiting a user’s profile. The account owner will still be able to access their own metrics and see the overall likes or view counts for a specific post, though they will have to tap through a post to view those metrics. Instagram said that the “private likes” test would begin later this week for users in Canada at F8, Facebook’s annual developers conference.
Critics of social media firms have said that the public emphasis of such metrics as likes incentivizes negative behavior on platforms together with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, leading users to chase engagement to measure their self-worth. Many social media corporations use algorithms that take under consideration a post’s likes or view counts, among other metrics, to determine how to distribute that content to other users.
Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri told BuzzFeed News that the test wasn’t concerning incentivizing specific behavior however “about making a less controlled environment where people feel comfy expressing themselves” and focus less on like counts. “We do hear people worry concerning how many like counts they get,” he said.
Likes can also be an inaccurate approach of measuring genuine engagement from users. There are online services where Instagram users can buy likes or comments, whereas BuzzFeed News has shown that real people have turned their own accounts into bots to exploit and benefit from mutual engagement.
Mosseri said he wasn’t taking the complete removal of like counts or video views “off the table” within the future and noted that he was hoping to learn from this 1st test.
He additionally said he would have to consider hiding metrics in stories, one of Instagram’s hottest features, within the future. Stories — ephemeral photos and videos that are broadcast to a user’s followers or certain groups — permit a post’s author to see how many people viewed that post. (It doesn’t show story view counts to followers.)
“Stories were, in part, the inspiration for this test,” Mosseri said.
Jane Manchun Wong, a technology blogger who reverse engineers popular apps to uncover unreleased options, first noticed the test earlier this month in an internal employee-only prototype