Do you look at the likes, or look at the content? Be honest.
On social media, it's so easy to be swayed by other people's judgement of what is 'likeable' and worthy of praise. In fact, the algorithms reward engagement by higher placement on feeds, initiating an upward spiral or dismal catch-22 of content. If your followers like your post, it will be shown to more users, and then liked some more. If not, your pretty picture will unfortunately slip to the bottom of the scroll screen.
This is not likely to change any time soon, but what might be on the move is the visibility of 'likes' to other users. Following criticisms about social media and mental health, Instagram are trialing an update which hides the 'like' counter from everyone but the content poster. It sounds a bit like keeping test results confidential rather than sharing them with the whole class: there is a social shame associated with not getting enough likes on a post, and young people are often quick to delete 'unpopular' content.
Apparently the change will encourage people to post more genuinely, rather than creating clickbait for users.
But will this work, and is it a good thing if it does? For those using Instagram professionally, surely the first rule is to have the 'reader' in mind. Small businesses need to know what their clients and customers like, as a way of monitoring and adapting to live feedback. However, I can see that for those using Instagram personally, the freedom of not needing to be likeable will come as a breath of fresh air. Teenagers are not supposed to be selling their personal brand and shaping themselves in accordance to other people's needs, whereas a service-based business perhaps does. It perplexes me daily that the platform can be used in the same way for such completely different purposes.
I no longer have any 'personal' social media accounts - my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter all have a defined purpose of promoting my writing and my workshops. The idea of having to create and sell 'me' as a brand just to be accepted amongst my peers seems insane. How dare someone else put a quantifiable number on the success of my dog walk, dinner date or how my face looks on a Friday evening?!
I welcome the idea of removing likes, not just for the sanity and self-confidence of millions of users, but also because I hope it might encourage scrollers to think for themselves. Don't just like a post because other people have liked it. Use your brain and react like an autonomous human. Perhaps leave someone a comment detailing what it is you like about their content - you might just make their day. I absolutely love the quote which says that 'social media is a stepping stone, not a destination.' You are not talking to the screen, you are talking to the people on the other side of the screen. Be nice to them, make an effort.
You have more power than an algorithm ever will.