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Tech Talk: Future of influencers uncertain as Instagram tests out hiding likes on posts

What is Instagram without being able to see how many people double tapped on your picture? Soon users will find out.

Earlier this week, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app announced it is running a test in Canada starting later this week that hides the total number of likes on photos and videos. Likes, which are shown as hearts on the app, will be removed from the main feed, permalink pages and profiles.

While followers won’t be able to see the total number of likes a post has received, the owner of the account still can, reported CNN.

“We are testing this because we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get,” an Instagram spokesperson said.

The news was announced at Facebook’s (FB) annual developer conference, F8, in San Jose, USA. The test is likely to elicit a range of reactions, from anger to relief. Likes are often used as a metric of popularity. Some Instagram users feel pressure to rack up the likes or post photos curated for the social media age, such as at Instagrammable pop-ups or social-media friendly restaurants. Not getting enough likes can even affect some users’ self-esteem. According to some studies, Instagram is the most detrimental social networking app for young people’s mental health.

Although removing public-facing likes could result in users posting more authentic content and feeling less pressure on the platform, experts said it’s not a cure-all solution. It doesn’t address or fix some of the other factors that can impact the self-esteem of people on the platform, such as bullying, feeling left out or thinking other people’s lives are better or more glamorous than their own.

The move, if rolled out more broadly, could also cause some confusion for the influencer marketing industry. Social media stars working with brands on partnerships are often paid based on engagement on their posts, and part of that involves likes. As a result, comments, follower counts or other metrics could become more important to people making money on Instagram.

CNN further reported that other social networks, such as Twitter (TWTR), have also discussed the idea of making likes and follower counts less prevalent. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey even texted about it with rapper Kanye West, who shared screenshots from their conversation on his Twitter account.

Instagram’s test was first spotted earlier this month by Jane Manchun Wong, a Hong Kong-based woman who searches for unreleased features in popular apps like Facebook and Instagram as a hobby.

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