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Instagram to Hide Likes; What Do Mid-Pen Students Think?

The most-liked photo on social media app, Instagram, is an image of an egg. 

No, really. An egg.

The image was posted on January 4, 2019, by user @world_record_egg with the caption: “Let’s set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram. Beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)! We got this 🙌”

The user turned out to be an advertising creative, and he did break the world record. The egg post has more than 59 million “Likes”  and the account boasts 7.6 million followers. Because the account is public, anyone logged into Instagram can click the little heart icon, letting the account owner that a user or follower approves of the photo.

And it’s that little heart icon—and the public’s ability to see how many “Likes” an image receives—that is currently a hot button, no pun intended, of debate right now.

Instagram announced last week that it plans to test the removal of Likes from public view. What does this mean? For a certain amount of users in the U.S., only the account holder will be able to see how many times a post is Liked, but the data will be hidden from outside eyes.

In an interview with Bloomberg News last week, Instagram exec Adam Mosseri said, “The idea is to try and reduce anxiety and social comparisons, specifically with an eye towards young people.”

A 2018 study conducted by Pew Research Center asked 743 teens, ages 13-17, about their social media and technology use. Seventy-two percent responded that they used Instagram. But when asked what social media platform they used most often, teens still lean towards SnapChat. (This is true for Mid-Pen students as well, based on discussions with students.)

A later study conducted by Pew Research in 2018 asked teens about their experiences on social media. Of the 743 teens surveyed, 37 percent indicated that a negative of social media is "the pressure to post content that will get lots of likes/comments.”

Mid-Pen uses Instagram and its parent company's site, Facebook, to provide a snapshot of daily life at school. Our Instagram account is geared towards our student, parent, and alumni population, and they regularly engage with our posts and stories. 

Since Instagram’s pilot of hiding Likes is geared towards “young people,” we decided to check in with our young Dragons to see how they felt about the news. We used Instagram stories to poll our followers. Since Mid-Pen’s account is public anyone could vote, but we verified that for this poll, all accounts who responded were part of the Mid-Pen community. 

  • When asked if they were glad Instagram was removing Likes from public view, 74 percent of respondents replied no.
  • Do our Instagram followers pay attention to how many likes they receive? 54 percent said yes.
  • Sixty-four percent of our respondents said they would post less if no one could see how many likes they received, but 95 percent of users said they would continue using Instagram even if Likes were eliminated.

One Mid-Pen student best assessed Instagram's pilot of hidden likes as a step in the right direction, but not as useful as the company thinks. "I think it wouldn't be as effective since you can still see your likes," the student said. "You can still be affected by the numbers of people liking it [a post] even if you can't see other likes."

Mid-Pen uses Likes and other Instagram-provided Insights as feedback on what content resonates with our audience. Hidden Likes don’t impact us as a school, but we understand how it can affect businesses and influencers who rely on the public attention to increase the popularity of their brand or cause. 

It should be noted that Instagram Insights are only provided to Business and Creator accounts. A recent NBC news story reported that many teens are switching their private personal accounts to these Business/Creator accounts so they can have access to metrics. We encourage families to have open discussions about responsible, healthy social media use, what social media "likes" really mean to their teens, and the drawbacks of having a public-facing account. We’ll be sharing more on this topic throughout the year.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the egg account, later posts weren’t so impressive to users as the very first one; the most recent video of an animated egg, posted on October 31, garnered only 53,000 Likes.   

Mid-Pen News contacted Instagram for comment, but they did not respond as of publishing time.