Tales from an Instagram Lab Rat


Are “Likes” important to you? Do you feel competitive comparing your Instagram profile to others? Well maybe you would enjoy my setup! Back in April of this year, Instagram announced they would be testing out the idea hiding Like counts on posts in an effort to curb some of the toxic social behaviours and insecurities the app itself has perpetuated. The idea is that if you can’t see how many Likes someone else’s post gets, and they can’t see how many yours gets, then we’ll all stop comparing ourselves to one another and go about our lives carefree without the anxiety of how our posts are performing. And without this pressure, we’ll focus more on the content we create and how we feel about it rather than if it will appeal to our audience.

After the announcement, Instagram began by rolling out this change to a test group in Canada and has since expanded the testing to Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand. Well, as luck would have it, my account was selected for the initial Canadian test group. Let me just say, I really tried to embrace the change. My first thought was, “Oh, this is a great idea. I can post as many pictures of my dog as I want without any [imaginary] consequences!” But after living with the change for the better part of 2019, my current feeling is that of frustration.

Unfortunately, the way Instagram implemented the change, at least for me, has not had the desired result. I thought the test was for all of Canada and therefore would work well, as virtually all the people I follow and those who follow me are Canadian, but no. Eventually, I learned that maybe a quarter of my friends were a part of the test group and had no idea what I was talking about. Now, this would’ve been a mild annoyance if the app had stayed the same otherwise, but on top of hiding likes from me, it seems like they’ve changed the algorithm again. Now, I’m no Influencer, but being the marketing enthusiast I am, once I noticed my posts weren’t doing as well as usual, I started paying a little more attention and testing different posting times. Long story short: no matter what I do, about a third less people see my posts than before the test began. My current theory is that posts are shown in higher priority the more you interact with an account, and because I tend to be more of a “lurker” than a “liker” I’m not interacting with as many people, and they aren’t seeing my posts as a result.

While the idea of this change and the thought behind it is a step in the right direction in terms of how we incorporate social media into our lives, this change has only resulted in me unintentionally caring more about my account and spending more time on the platform than I used to (well played, Instagram). I think I speak for most of Canada when I say we would prefer to be able to use Instagram Music than to have our Likes hidden.

Do you want Instagram to make this change universal? Let us know what you think!

Perri Read, Junior Consultant