Culture

Instagram is rolling out a switch to toggle ‘likes’ on or off

Choose Your Own Instagram Adventure, coming soon to a smartphone near you.

Contented girl with brown hair looks up wistfully, imagining good photo for which she will receive many likes on instagram. Full-length shot of blogger in fashionable clothes on orange background
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Over the last couple of years, Instagram has been testing what would be a massive change to the platform’s general operations: hiding the total “likes” count on feed photos. Now the company has decided to try out giving users control over whether or not they see like count, The Verge reports.

Instagram says the new likes toggle will be rolling out as a small global test first, presenting users with three options: keeping the current likes experience, turning off likes for their own posts, or eliminating likes from their feed entirely. There’s a similar feature in the works for the Facebook feed, too.

This middle ground — giving users the choice whether or not to watch likes tally up on posts — is a new take on the feature. There’s a fair chance the decision to roll this toggle out for a global test is related to last month’s slip-up, where Instagram accidentally hid likes for a huge swath of users, much to the internet’s immediate dismay.

Instagram has held out a blanket policy to kill likes because many users enjoy the serotonin hit of a well-liked photo. In fact, for some, it’s what keeps them using the service. For others, it’s how they monetize their influence. Allowing users to choose their own experience might just be the perfect move.

A shift in the experience — Instagram has changed immensely in the last decade. The rise of TikTok has forced a number of new video features into the Instagram ecosystem in an effort to keep up; product placement and shopping have become central to the in-app experience, too.

The basic Instagram functions — that is, posting photos, scrolling through your feed, and double-tapping to like — are really all that’s managed to stay constant through Instagram’s transformation. But the backend of these functions is no longer simple. The influencer economy has turned engagement into a complex game; if you don’t know the tricks, you’re likely to be let down by the results, and chronological scroll is gone in favor of algorithmic efforts to maximize time spent on the service... and the odds of clicking on one of its growing number of ads.

Instagram has always positioned hiding likes as the ultimate solution to this strife. The company hopes removing the like count will make using Instagram less stressful overall, and perhaps win back those who’ve left it over the perceived peer pressure likes evoke.

Choose your own Instagram — The problem with just taking likes out of the equation completely is that the like count is an integral part of how Instagram functions — and how it makes money. Back in 2019, CEO Adam Mosseri told NPR: “Likes are a sign of how relevant influencers are, so we have to figure out some way to preserve that.”

Giving users the choice of their Instagram experience could be exactly what Mosseri has been searching for. Influencers can keep their like counts, while those of us less inclined to make money off our posts can choose the ignorance-is-bliss route.