For nearly a decade, Instagram like counts have been a source of pride—and more than a little mental anguish—to the app’s users. Influencers, or people trying desperately hard to be one, rely on the amount of double-taps they receive to gauge their popularity and rack in sponsored content deals.
But earlier this year, the photo-sharing platform began testing out “hidden likes” in countries like Canada, Japan, and Australia. On Friday, CEO Adam Mosseri confirmed the controversial feature will hit certain U.S. users’ phones beginning this week.
Cue mass hysteria, with celebrities and so-called content creators upset over the change. The rapper Nicki Minaj threatened to begin a one-woman protest, musing on Twitter: “Think of all the time I’ll have with my life now.” Cardi B echoed the sentiment, adding that the unaffected comments section is also toxic. And Bachelor alum and grid obsessive Caila Quinn told Allure, “The like is a powerful thing and we shouldn’t take that for granted.”
But the news seems but a blip in Kim Kardashian West’s day, with the mega-influencer telling The New York Times: “As far as mental health, I mean it’s something that taking the likes away and taking that aspect away from it would be really beneficial for people.” In September, Alexa Galante, whose @XO Bunny profile enjoys over a million followers, told Good Morning America the move could help to “reduce cyber-bullying.”
Indeed, it seems that certain influencers are happy to see like counts disappear. Tricia Chen, aka @HappilyEverStyle, has been a full-time blogger for three and a half years, and currently boasts a following of over 35,000. One of her first posts to blow up was a photo from her wedding, which Chen posted on her first anniversary back in 2017.
“I felt loved by my followers,” Chen wrote. “I know it was their way of saying congratulations to me even if they didn’t leave a comment.” But those #goodvibes quickly faded, and with every post Chen began to feel “very anxious” by the number of likes the images did—or didn’t—rack in.
“I thought likes and followers would be the determining factor to whether I succeeded in the industry or not,” Chen said. “But I no longer feel that way because I started learning about other insights and realized people would share and save my content—which isn’t visible to others but more meaningful to me than liking the post.”
Chen believes that people “sometimes decide if they like something based on how popular or well-received some things are,” which means people might be hesitant to double-tap a photo if it’s not getting a lot of love from others.
“So I support removing likes just because I think it allows people to make their own judgement of whether they actually really like the content,” Chen said. “Kind of like the idea of not having others to persuade you your own opinion. The focus would then be more on the content itself.”
Hannah Berner, 28, is a comedian, podcast host, and former Summer House cast member. She regularly posts screenshots of her viral tweets and joke videos to her Instagram following of 164,000. Before she ended up on TV, Berner insists her social media accounts were private and she never noticed the amount of likes she received.
“I want people to like my posts, but not just because I’m pretty or I’m popular, but because my jokes were funny or I made someone smile that day,” Berner said. “I’ve never taken down anything because it doesn’t get enough likes. I post things I stand by and believe in and want to share. Hopefully that mentality will spread, instead of people posting for constant affirmation.”
Berner believes that the current like situation on Instagram creates an “online popularity contest” that discourages young people from being creative or spontaneous online. “I do think taking away likes can make people feel more creative, and compare themselves to each other less,” she said. “If influencers are ultimately making great content, we’ll find a way to continually influence.”
Last fall, Berner posted a joke on Twitter which read, “Dating is really just finding someone whose parents fucked them up in a compatible way to how your parents fucked you up.” It garnered 3,000 likes, and Berner admits she succumbs to “getting addicted to other people’s affirmations.”
“You start to wonder, ‘If I don’t get enough likes, maybe I’m not funny anymore, maybe people don’t like me anymore,’” Berner said. “Taking away the feature is a step in the right direction to not comparing yourself to others, but I do think that if you’re going to compare yourself to others, you’ll find a new way to do so. That’s the bigger issue here.”