Canadians who regularly scroll through Instagram have probably noticed it by now. Gone are the days of the “likes On instagram” count and of comparing the popularity of your uploaded snaps to others—at least for now. get more likes on instagram than click here
The popular social media platform recently initiated an experiment, one that involves hiding the number of likes and views a picture or video receives from everyone but owners of accounts. The ability to like or “heart” posts in your feed has become almost universal among popular social networking apps. But it’s a feature that’s been criticized for instigating real-world bullying and triggering mental-health issues among users like depression and anxiety.
The market for testing this potentially transformative innovation in Canada, and so far only Canada.
You’d think this would be catastrophic news to the small group of Canadians on Instagram known as “influencers”—people with thousands of followers who’ve built careers on the Facebook-owned platform, and who depend on likes as a form of currency. Yet many appear to welcome the change. While some voice concern about how they’ll navigate the changes with companies that pay social media players to advertise their wares—influencers’ main source of income—others think the benefits of the experiment could outweigh the risk, raising the quality of the content online while reducing social downsides of engagement driven by likes.
“It was kind of the whole point of Instagram,” says Jessica Hoffman from Montreal, who treats her 280,000 followers to health and wellness tips and vegetarian recipes. “But after considering it, I thought it could put a lot more focus on the content that’s being created, as opposed to feeling pressured to create content that you think is just going to perform well.”
Blogging was once just a hobby for Hoffman. Then, a little more than two years ago, she quit her job in fashion marketing to work full-time on her blog and Instagram, posting at least once every day, six days a week. Because so much of social media is based on how others perceive you and creates an environment based on popularity, the loss of likes leaves her wondering how the terms of sponsorship deals between Canadian influencers and companies based in other countries might change. “It’s still very new so it’s a little bit scary to think about, especially since part of my job is working with brands,” she says. But companies usually ask for broader, more sophisticated analytics—such as impressions, the number of times a post has been seen—directly from individuals they seek to work with, and Instagram stars like Hoffman still have access to these metrics.
Allana Davison, a 26-year-old beauty and fashion influencer from Toronto with 237,000 followers doesn’t believe the change will negatively impact her livelihood, though like Hoffman she’s curious to see how companies will react to the move. Rather, she believes the change could have benefits for younger people. “From a mental health perspective, I think it’s great for the younger generation growing up on Instagram,” she says. “Thank God I missed that.” Museo Handahu, a lifestyle and fashion influencer from Halifax with 42,000 loyal followers concurs. “It’s a move in the right direction—we’re a generation that seeks online validation,” she says. Handahu just hopes her supporters will “still double-tap.”
Davison notes that the change is a sudden pivot from Instagram’s first algorithm shift a few years ago, which altered feeds from chronological to non-chronological and favored popular, sponsored posts over others. At the time, Davison noticed a decline in the number of likes she got per post and wondered whether this latest modification could discourage people from using the app’s like function altogether.
An Instagram spokesperson from Facebook said in a statement that the company hopes “by making the number of likes private, people will be able to focus more on the photos and videos posted, and that this will ultimately drive deeper, more meaningful engagement” across the app. At Facebook’s annual developers conference in San Jose, Calif. in April, the company said the initiative is part of a broader focus on “well-being,” and that Canadians were chosen as the test market because they are “highly social and tech-savvy,” with more than 24 million people connecting across the Facebook family of apps each month. However, the company isn’t saying how long the test will last, or whether the change will be permanently implemented in Canada or other countries.
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To be sure, the company has not discovered social responsibility wholly on its own. Its removal of likes for the betterment of society comes at a time when Ottawa is actively considering the idea of regulating Facebook and other tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Twitter. Other western democracies, concerned about how social media companies are handling personal data, have already made such moves. “We recognize that self-regulation is not yielding the results that societies are expecting these companies to deliver,” Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould told the Toronto Star in April.
Still, the experiment has won unequivocal approval from some key voices. Namely, parents. Carol Todd from Port Coquitlam, B.C. created the Amanda Todd Legacy Society after her daughter died by suicide after encountering a cyber predator, and she’s been an advocate against bullying and cyber abuse ever since. “There’s a vulnerable sector that thrives on likes and follows,” Todd says of the mental health implications, noting that it becomes unhealthy to rely on the internet for “all the positives in life.”
Todd, who works for the Coquitlam School District, would like to see Instagram’s Canadian experiment stick around for good. She’s seen the negative effects a sudden decline in likes, or a failure to gather them in the first place can have on young people and adults. “I don’t think we need to like things that we see on social media,” she says. “There are other ways—in real life, people-to-people—in which we need to find the same gratification.”
Hoffman would also welcome the permanent removal of the likes count. To her, there’s something freeing about putting community over competition, and creativity over emulation. Worrying about likes, after all, had been a burden carried by every Canadian influencer. “It removes that pressure of everyone being able to see and compare,” she says. “It’s something that could be very positive in the long run.”
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In the summer of 2015, Rebecca Martin was perusing Facebook when she noticed an inspirational quote meme posted by an acquaintance:
I used to think I must be the strangest person in the world
but then I thought, there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do
- I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too.
- well, I hope that if you are out there you read this and know that yes, it’s true I’m here,
and I’m just as strange as you.
Martin immediately recognized words she had written as a teenager and submitted them in 2008 to the anonymous confessional blog PostSecret. But this Facebook meme attributed the quote to Frida Kahlo, the deceased Mexican artist known for her surreal and evocative self-portraits. Then Martin googled the quote. It was everywhere—in memes and on inspirational sites, in magazines—and always attributed to Kahlo. Martin replied to her acquaintance’s post to explain that the quote was hers, adding: “I do not mean to detract from the sentiment. I certainly shared it at one point in time. I think . . . it would have helped to know that so many other people felt like strangers too.”
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The whole thing induced a surreal sort of shock. Mostly, Martin thought that when people saw her claim of authorship, they would think she was out to lunch.
Immediately, she searched online for an image of the postcard she’d originally submitted to PostSecret, and there it was: a purple and pink sideways image of Kahlo on a floral backdrop, with the quote running across the artist’s face. Martin, now at a marketing research firm in Toronto, had been a shy, inner-dwelling high school student in Markham, Ont. when she ripped the image out of a magazine and glued the typed-out text over top. She’d been delighted when the collage made the front page of the blog. But the whole point of PostSecret was anonymity, so there was no way to prove the words were hers.
“I had this feeling, not of panic, but of ‘How am I ever going to correct the record on this?’ ” she says. “It’s not that I need everyone to know I said that, but I love history and I’m very interested in it, and I know this information is incorrect. I would like it to be at least known that Frida Kahlo didn’t say that.”
Around the same time, a friend of Martin’s found an installment of the inspirational cartoon Zen Pencils based entirely on the quote. Martin contacted the artist, and he in turn reached out to QuoteInvestigator.com, which concluded that it found Martin’s “assertion credible.”
So for the last several years, at least, there has been an internet paper trail correcting the record. But the life cycle of that quote attributed to Kahlo has only proven the truth of the saying “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on” (which is usually attributed to Mark Twain or Winston Churchill, neither of whom said it). This all surfaced again in November, when New York’s Museum of Modern Art posted the quote on Twitter and Instagram, along with an image of Kahlo’s 1940 Self-Portrait With Cropped Hair from its collection. A friend of Martin’s replied to them, and MoMA later acknowledged in a tweet that the quote had been misattributed. But MoMA also left the original post up, undoubtedly buttressing the myth. This Christmas, Martin’s parents gave her a Moleskine notebook with a quote on it, attributed to Kahlo. “My parents are thrilled and . . . this is not a way that a person could plan to make their parents proud,” she says. “It’s just very strange. But it’s also something that seems very separate from me now, that it’s just this thing that has a life of its own that’s connected to me.”
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There is, of course, a beautiful and empathetic symmetry to all of it. A teenager unsure of her place wrote an earnest confession of alienation and sent it out anonymously to the world. Whereupon, tens of thousands of people over more than a decade related so fiercely to her displacement—even if they were mixed up about who felt that way—that her words turned loneliness into a shared experience.
“I think it’s a very common feeling, and I understood that seeing the response,” Martin says. “Even though I think people like the idea that it’s Frida Kahlo who said that, it made me feel like I’ve inadvertently connected to all these people.”
That teenage version of Rebecca Martin was never alone. And who knows? Maybe Frida Kahlo felt that way too, even if she never told us.
This article appears in print in the March 2022 issue of Maclean’s magazine with the headline, “Dangling attribution.” Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.
338Canada: Trumpism is alive and well on Canada’s right
In the waning days of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign, Léger conducted a poll to take the pulse of Canadian voters on the tightly contested presidential race south of the border. Unsurprisingly—considering Trump’s tumultuous relationship with Canada and his random impositions of tariffs on several Canadian exports (steel, aluminum, and other resources)—a vast majority of Canadians sided with the then-Democratic candidate (and eventual winner) Joe Biden by a hefty margin. Mind you, this was before the well-documented post-election attempts by Trump to overturn the election in his favor, and before the violent January 6 insurrection on the Capitol.
As President Joe Biden approaches his mid-mandate mark and considering that Donald Trump remains to this day the presumptive favorite for the 2024 Republican primaries, what do Canadians think about this potential rematch for the White House? In its latest federal poll, Léger asked the very same hypothetical question as in 2020 to its panel: “If you could vote in the U.S. presidential election, would you vote for Joe Biden or Donald Trump?”
Among all respondents, two-thirds of Canadians (65 percent) would support President Joe Biden, against only 15 percent of respondents who would side with Trump (and another 21 percent do not know). Among decided voters, Biden gets the nod from 81 percent of Canadian voters according to Léger, against 19 percent for Trump.
Breaking down the results by polling regions of the country, we see little regional variations, aside from Alberta where support for Trump is highest at 33 percent (for context, this is a proportion similar to the 2020 results in the state of Vermont). Support for Trump is lowest in Atlantic Canada, British Columbia, and Quebec: