When Instagram recently announced that they would hide like counts for videos or photos on their platform, the world suddenly stopped. Millions of users stood still in anticipation of what will happen next. Even though Instagram is currently testing this solution only in selected countries, this move sprung the discussion about likes in general. Do we need likes at all? Are they useful? Can we have social media without likes?

How do Instagram ‘likes’ work?

Instagram disables the 'like' feature - Will the world without 'likes' be better?

Usually, when you post photo or video to your Instagram feed, your followers can like or comment on it. Generally speaking, likes are showing the appreciation of the content. The more likes you get, the better received is your content. But not only that. Likes are important to creators because this is one of the components that gets picked up by Instagram algorithms. The almighty algorithms, which then position your content and decide who will see it.

Within the Instagram community it is well known, that even if you subscribe to an account, that doesn’t guarantee that you will see this account’s content in your feed. It’s the Instagram, who decides what you see, based on the content you like, comment and interact with. It’s almost like on Instagram you have your very own guide, which shows you only the best things tailormade especially for you.

That’s one of the reasons why everyone cares about likes. They want to create content that is visible to many people. The type of content which Instagram algorithm chooses to be shown in ‘Top Posts’ or the ‘Explore’ tab. Truly, the type of content which will make you the influencer and makes you famous.

Buying Instagram ‘likes’ – is it a good business?

There are apps on iTunes where users can buy “likes” or “like” strangers’ photos with a guarantee they will get “likes” in return. Likes or number of follower became Instagram currency. Everyone wants to have more, to the point that more impatient users are willing to pay real money for it.

Do ‘likes’ have an impact on how you feel?

Instagram disables the 'like' feature - Will the world without 'likes' be better?
Photo by Stokpic

Social media have a big impact on your mental health. For many people, it seems to have a negative impact, especially in times then we are present on social media very often. Social comparing, evaluating self-worth based on social media feedback is a fast road to feeling isolated, depressed and anxious.

In response, social media platforms seem like they want to help out. Perhaps they feel like part of the problem. In the end, they are in charge of platforms accused of creating the ‘like’ culture. Some studies provide evidence of the negative effects of it on mental health.

Most definitely, they could become part of the solution. Instagram already previously claimed that they want to get away from the pressure of like counts. They’ve created Instagram Stories as a response to this problem and had great success with it. Next step could be hiding the ‘likes’. Instagram claims: “We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get,”.

Everyone realized that ‘likes’ create lots of pressure on creators. Some might feel like they cannot simply express themselves without being judged. Perhaps the world with no likes would be better? We wouldn’t have the need to compare ourselves…or would we?

Social comparison theory

Instagram disables the ‘like’ feature – Will the world without ‘likes’ be better?
Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

Theories that individuals determine their social and personal worth based on how they compare with others are not new. Way before social media existed, in 1954 Leon Festinger proposed the Social comparison theory. The theory explains how individuals compare themselves to others in order to learn how to define the self. It’s individuals way of self-improvement and self-motivation.

Many people think that the trend of comparing ourselves and fighting for ‘likes’ is an element of the present days. That isn’t exactly true. People have always been comparing themselves to others. Before social media, there was a radio, TV or simply other people in the neighborhood, at school, university, at work. The social comparison was happening in the past, it is happening now, and most probably will be in the future.

The only difference is, that nowadays you can do it without even seeing anyone in real life. You don’t have to leave your house to log online, go on Facebook or Instagram and see what others are up to. Social media are full of carefully directed, staged and precisely edited photos. It’s easier to get caught in a trap, believing that what you see on Instagram is what real life looks life. Very quickly our own lives can start to feel inadequate!

Would the world without ‘likes’ be better?

Perhaps the problem isn’t in ‘likes’. Maybe it’s just that we are trying too hard, pushing content which is perfect, rather than real. We are editing our own lives into Insta-friendly version which is so far out from the reality that is hard to believe even for ourselves. Perhaps is good to log off from time to time and cross-check the Insta version of life with the real deal.


In the end, with or without ‘likes’, there will always be someone who will like our content and someone who doesn’t. There will be people comparing their lives and achievements to others. It’s just part of who we are. Perhaps Instagram will make it a bit more gentle, with removing ‘likes’ which are so obvious. However, with such quick access to everyone’s life (or at least Insta-version of it), it’s inevitable that there will be comparing.

What are your thoughts about this topic?

Instagram disables the 'like' feature - Will the world without 'likes' be better? 1