Every day, some 95 million photos and videos are uploaded to Instagram. And every day, Instagram users can scroll through those pictures and videos’ 4.2bn ‘likes’.
Or, they could.
In July, Instagram announced it would remove the visible ‘like’ counts in six countries, including Australia and New Zealand, following a trial in Canada. While users can see their own like counts, their followers cannot.
We’re several weeks into the ban – has it changed how Instagram works? Depends on who you ask.
Some Australian influencers criticised the move. Jem Wolfie, a food and fitness influencer from Perth with 2.7 million followers, complained on national radio that Instagram had taken away a critical tool. A young Melbourne Instagrammer, Mikaela Testa, tearily took to YouTube denouncing the platform’s move. Both women were immediately bombarded with jibes from across social and mainstream media to ‘get a real job’.
For them, however, and many others, Instagram is a real job. Some, like Australian fitness influencer Kayla Itsines, can amass significant wealth. Itsines, who has nearly 12m followers and a fitness app and program, was reported to be worth more than 46 million Australian dollars ($31 million) last year, combined with her Instagramming fiancé.
Why did Instagram turn likes invisible? To create a “less pressurised environment” and to address mental health concerns for its users, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said at a conference in California earlier this year. Cyberbullying is rampant, and many influencers chase likes to the point of burnout. But some fear the move makes it harder for them to make a living.
Interestingly, a month into the change, many influencers – at least publicly – are welcoming the move, and shrugging off concerns about the threat to their income.