As Instagram starts removing public likes from accounts, I can see why influencers, meme accounts, and small businesses would be pissed that they’re losing the singular engagement metric. But as a normal person user, I’m pumped. When those likes go away, I can finally post as many old paparazzi photos from the 2000s as I want, and it won’t show how much or how little people care.
If you care even a little bit about your social media presence — as I do — the number of likes is a public grade. Personally, I post a lot of photos of myself because those are the photos that do well. I don’t know if my friends are liking them out of solidarity or just because they appreciate seeing a familiar face in the middle of an endless scroll. But a photo of myself always does better than a photo of an old New York cover featuring Rachel Weisz, which makes little to no sense from an aesthetic point of view.
I’ve never had the patience to curate my feed into a color-coordinated masterpiece, so I mostly just post what I think will do well on my grid, and save the other random dispatches from my life (mostly meals, memes, and outfits) for Instagram Stories where I don’t expect instant feedback on whether anyone likes them. As a result, I think my Instagram Stories on any given day are more compelling than whatever I’m actually posting for people to see forever. They’re definitely weirder and less formulaic.
I’m excited to stop caring so much. I suppose I could just not care, but I’m too far gone for that to happen. When I interviewed VSCO girls for a story in September, they said they appreciated the platform’s lack of likes — less pressure that way. You can post things that won’t perform, which are often the things you see in your daily life and think are beautiful, interesting, or absurd. Their Instagrams are collections of posed photos, while their VSCOs are more like a scrapbook. I think, really, that Instagram will be more interesting now that normal people have their guard down.
My model for this brave new world is Diane Keaton, whose Instagram is a masterpiece. Celebrities who didn’t become famous on social media are often unfamiliar with the tropes — their super fans will like anything, and their career isn’t contingent on Insta-fame, so they don’t have to learn how to perform for likes. Keaton posts pictures of dogs and kids she doesn’t know, scenes from movies she loves, and amazing mirror selfies of her outfits past and present. Scrolling through, I get an idea of what Diane Keaton likes, rather than just what she looks like. I’d like for people to be more like Diane Keaton, starting with myself.
Will Instagram without likes become less vain? Eh, probably not. Everything I’m posting is still to communicate to you, my followers, something about how great/interesting/tasteful/beautiful I am. But we don’t know the rules of this brave new Instagram yet. Maybe the update will allow us more freedom to experiment and explore. We were due for a change.