Instagram starts removing likes: Why, when, and what it will look like

Since Instagram was first introduced in 2010, success on the platform has been measured almost entirely by the number of likes received per post. Even though many have criticized the societal value given to a photo with 100,000 likes versus one that had 10, getting more likes on Instagram has remained an important objective for many users.

So what happens if the social media giant decides to remove likes all together? It looks like we’ll soon find out. 

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Is Instagram hiding or removing likes?

In November 2019, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced that the social media platform would start hiding the number of likes displayed underneath posts. Mosseri told Wired, who first broke the news, that the move was being made in an effort to improve the emotional and mental health of Instagram users. 

"It means we’re going to put a 15-year-old kid’s interests before a public speaker’s interest," Mosseri said. "When we look at the world of public content, we’re going to put people in that world before organizations and corporations."

Now, it’s important to note the distinction here. Instagram is not removing likes; it’s hiding them from your public profile. Likes will be private now, so you can still see how many likes a post received, but no one else can. You can’t see anyone else’s like count either.

When is Instagram potentially getting rid of likes?

The company first tested out the update in Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia in July 2019 before introducing it to its American users in late November 2019. While this is indeed a massive change to the platform, Instagram is still only in the testing phase. Not everyone is affected, but hidden likes will likely expand to more and more users. 

At first, those who were a part of the testing group received a banner notification on their home feeds to make them aware of the removal of likes from the public view. However, it now seems like most people worldwide have been introduced to an Instagram feed without likes. Instagram has not made a statement about whether or not the change is permanent. 

Why is Instagram considering removing likes?

As previously stated, Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri has said that removing likes was the platform’s way to “depressurize” Instagram for young people. However, a recent report from CNBC claims that the growth and data science teams at Facebook (which owns Instagram), believe that hiding likes might motivate people to post more frequently. They also think that it might extend the length of time that people spend on the app. 

Instagram has not responded to these claims. Instead, Mosseri continues to suggest that removing likes is all about making Instagram a better place. 

"It’s about young people," Mosseri said. "The idea is to try to ‘depressurize’ Instagram, make it less of a competition and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people that they love, things that inspire them."

Why am I still seeing likes on Instagram?

If you’re still seeing the number of likes on an Instagram post, there’s a chance the feature hasn’t reached your area yet. After announcing that the United States would be the next country to have likes hidden, Instagram told TechCrunch that it was expanding this new version of the app to a small percentage of each country across the globe. So even if you’re still seeing the number of likes at the moment, you probably won’t for much longer. 

What does Instagram look like without likes?

Instead of the number of likes displayed on a post like we’re used to, the hidden likes feature will only display one username — likely an account you and the user posting both follow — followed by “and others.” 

That said, there is still a way to gauge how successful posts are compared to others. Here are the current measurements determined by IG:

  • Below 100 likes: displayed as “others”
  • Below 1,000 likes: displayed as “hundreds of others” 
  • Below 100,000 likes: displayed as “thousands of others” 
  • Below 1,000,000 likes: displayed as “hundreds of thousands of others”

While the exact number of likes is private and can only be seen by the user, there is still a way to measure likes. Anyone can click on the “others” to see the names of people who liked the post, and, if you’re really diligent, you can manually count how many likes a post received. 

Instagram likes removed: The pros and cons

It seems inevitable that Instagram likes are going away, so what does it mean for the platform? More specifically, what does it mean for you as a user? 

How can it benefit you if Instagram gets rid of likes?

If you’re used to receiving a lot of likes — or if getting a certain number of likes on a post was something you were after — you might be wondering if there are any positive benefits to hiding likes.

As long as you’re not growing your account by using inauthentic practices, there are benefits to this change. Here are the pros: 

  • Accounts with a smaller following will be able to blend in with larger, more established accounts, giving them a chance to earn more credibility. 
  • Accounts who have purchased likes or grown their audience in other nonorganic ways will no longer have the same influence. 
  • Users may enjoy the lack of pressure when it comes to getting a certain number of likes and will post more. 
  • People will be more likely to interact, comment, and engage on Instagram. 

It seems as though hiding likes not only evens the playing field but also gives Instagram a chance to get back to the purpose of social media: real connection. 

How can Instagram hiding likes be bad for you?

As with any new social media feature, there are always some downsides. However, in this instance, the pros greatly outweigh the cons, which include:

  • Accounts with perceived credibility may lose their influence. 

Prior to hidden likes, we gave accounts that routinely had thousands of likes per post a sort of earned authority within the social media sphere. Without that authority displayed loud and proud on our feeds, some of those accounts may notice a drop in engagement. 

However, if an account is posting authentic content and making an effort to engage and interact with their followers, this con will likely not be a problem. 

While hiding likes on Instagram seems like a drastic move from the social media giant, there’s a good chance that it will do more good than harm to us all. It’s time we start worrying less about likes and more about creating authentic content. 


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