By Victoria Mariolle
On July 17, Instagram announced that it was exploring the idea of hiding the number of “likes” from its photo-sharing platform. According to the company, the new design would encourage “followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get,” shifting the emphasis away from the quantity of likes to the quality of content.
While the news was met with mixed reactions, as social media influencers complained that the change would undermine their online popularity, Instagram believes this is an important step for users' mental and physical health.
Galen Panger, a former Ph.D. at UC Berkeley’s School of Information and a user design expert at one of the Big Five tech companies, was interviewed about this topic.
Why would Instagram implement this change now?
“Instagram could be trying to address some of the negative externalities of their service. There is a broader social criticism out there of all these companies — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. — for using metrics to measure people’s worth. Twitter has recently reduced the font size on the follower count to, in at least that extremely minor way, de-emphasize the number of followers you have.”
Galen Panger earned his Ph.D. at the School of Information in 2017. His research focuses on social media behavior.