By Brecken Branstrator
New York—For some, a “like” on Instagram gives instant satisfaction. For others, it’s a sign that people are finding and interacting with their business.

But soon, the ability to see how many users double tap an image might not be an option for some users.

Instagram announced Friday it will begin testing the hiding of “likes” on the platform for some users in the United States as soon as this week.

This doesn’t mean that like counts will vanish entirely; rather, they will simply be hidden from public view.

According to CNN Business, the test will remove the “like” number from photos and videos on main feed, profiles and permalink pages, but account owners will still be able to see their own likes.

The CNN article also noted that when someone a user follows likes another user’s post, it will say “Liked by [name of Instagram account] and others” under said post, where the like count normally shows up.

Users can then click through to see the list of everyone who liked it, but they still won’t be able to see a full count.

Instagram said the rollout will start with a limited number of accounts. The social media platform didn’t respond to an email inquiry asking exactly how many people would be chosen for the test or how long it would last.

The Facebook-owned photo sharing platform already has been testing removing the like number from public view in seven countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand.

“It’s about young people,” Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said Friday at the Wired 25 conference about the changes to the platform.

“The idea is to try to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, give people more space to focus on connecting with the people that they love, things that inspire them.”

He added that testing the removal of likes will allow Instagram to gauge if and how it affects people’s feelings about the platform.

In a tweet, Mosseri said he’s looking forward to user feedback.

According to the CNN Business report, some users have already applauded the social media platform’s effort to improve the well-being of users.

One Wired reporter even referred to Instagram as the “mental health lab of our era,” referring not only to its investigation into how the removal of likes would benefit younger users but also its increased efforts to keep users safe overall.

But the platform’s move to remove likes has received a fair amount of criticism as well, including the argument that hiding engagement metrics could make it harder to determine whether a user’s follower’s count is legitimate, Wired reported.

Others bemoan how it will impact the marketing strategy of the many businesses that use Instagram to reach new and existing customers, and depend on showing number of likes to establish brand authority or exhibit desire for a product.

And though it might be leading the charge in “de-metrication,” or reducing the importance social media platforms place on public metrics, it’s hardly the first to do so.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all have experimented with removing engagement metrics too.

Feeling the Effects
It remains to be seen how removing likes will affect Instagram engagement overall, and how brands and influencers will adapt.

“Influencers know they are much stronger together than apart,” said Jacqueline Stone, CEO of marketing consulting and coaching business Bubblegum and Duct Tape and a columnist for National Jeweler.

“I think this will encourage [influencers] to stay in better touch [with each other] and communicate in real time how they can help each other [respond to the change]. This is especially strong in the fine jewelry industry and, if anything, it’ll continue to foster collaboration and community.”

Overall, Stone’s optimistic about the change and ready to embrace it.

She said given that a like won’t count for quite as much since no numbers will be associated with them now, “perhaps it’ll foster more communication, questions and laughter.”

While it’s still too early to tell how removing the public appearance of likes will affect businesses, since any effect to Instagram’s algorithm will take time to become evident, there are things the industry can keep in mind to navigate the change.

“Social media is often not where people are buying product. It’s where they are discovering and interacting with your brand,” Stone said.

“But if they truly want to buy something of yours, they’ll make it happen.”

She noted independent designers without websites who generate sales on Instagram through direct messages and comments shouldn’t be affected by removing likes.

“It’ll be more about when and how your product shows up in the feed, and unfortunately we have absolutely no control over that. The only thing we can do is keep producing quality content that motivates our audience to follow us or reach out.”

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