From the beginning of its “experiment” with hiding likes, Instagram has maintained that the move is meant to improve users’ mental health. But according to three former Facebook employees, there’s another, more selfish reason why the photo sharing app is making this change: it’ll get you to post more often.
This report comes from CNBC, who spoke with the three employees under the condition that their identities would be kept anonymous. According to the report, Facebook’s growth and data science teams “developed a hypothesis” that hiding likes might encourage users to post more often by removing the pressure associated with likes.
Currently, the fear of posting a photo that’s only liked by a couple of close friends might be keeping some users from posting as often as they’d like. Removing likes might remove this stigma, encouraging users to post more, thereby spending more time on the platform, which would ultimately translate into more ad revenue for Instagram and Facebook.
Instagram’s hope that this move will remove some of the social “pressure” involved in posting to the platform is well documented. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri has said this multiple times, even using the term “depressurize” on several occasions, but many have openly questioned what’s in this for Instagram from a business perspective.
If CNBC‘s sources are to be trusted, the answer is simple: ad revenue. But not ad revenue that Instagram might reclaim from Influencers who use this key metric to get clients; ad revenue from users who can now be even more active on the platform.
Could this change, which is meant to help users feel less social pressure, actually contribute to more “Instagram addiction?” That depends on how you define addiction, but even Mosseri has publicly admitted that this change could encourage people to post more:
Our interest in hiding likes really is just to depressurize Instagram for young people. It'll likely effect how much some people engage on Instagram, probably liking a bit less and posting a bit more, but the main thing we're trying to learn is how this effects how people feel.
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) November 11, 2019
Of course, Mosseri stopped short of hypothesizing how this might affect Instagram’s bottom line, re-emphasizing the impact on “how people feel.” But if Instagram can get some positive press, make Instagram a more enjoyable platform to use, and increase its ad revenue at the same time, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t.
Image credits: Header image by Lisa Fotios, CC0