Well, color us shocked.
A new Instagram feature billed as a boon to users’ well-being, might in fact — purely coincidentally, we’re sure — increase the amount users post. Who could have ever possibly seen that coming?
According to a Dec. 6 story from CNBC, former employees of the Facebook-owned Instagram have speculated that the plan to hide likes might have a side effect that, for some unknowable reason, remained unheralded by company executives.
“There’s also a hypothesis within the company that hiding likes will increase the number of posts people make to the service, by making them feel less self-conscious when their posts don’t get much engagement,” the story reads.
And, with more content translating to more time on the service, it also translates to the possibility of more advertising revenue.
You’d be forgiven for being confused. The move to hide like counts, announced this past April, was supposed to be all about reducing the stress of a life lived online. Doing away with outward-facing likes would, the stated logic went, allow you to “focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.”
At least some employees at Instagram also believed it would make insecure users feel less inclined to self-censor their questionable content. Essentially, you’re all a bunch of fragile posters afraid of rejection — and that just so happens to be contrary to the company’s bottom line.
We reached out to Instagram in an attempt to confirm CNBC’s report, but a company spokesperson simply replied saying they “can’t comment on speculations.” The spokesperson did, however, point us toward comments made by Instagram head Adam Mosseri at a November Wired event — comments that appear to be mostly a rehashing of the same Instagram-approved talking points mentioned above.
“It’s about young people,” Mosseri said on stage. “The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition.”
WATCH: Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announces that the platform will start hiding likes for US audiences starting next week. It’s the latest step in Instagram’s quest to become the safest place on the internet. https://wired.trib.al/Og0SACC #WIRED
Even so, CNBC’s story is broadly consistent with what we know of Facebook’s long history: presenting a change as driven by one thing, and later revealing it was driven by something else entirely (hint: money!).
It also fits in with the long-observed trend of teens deleting posts and even partially explains both the 2016 addition of Stories and 2017’s archive option as both those features reduced the importance of like counts.