Instagram Allegedly Withholds ‘Likes’ To Keep Users Hooked

The big news on the Instagram front is that the app could be strategically withholding likes from appearing on fresh, new posts.

Yeah, that’s right. To put it bluntly, likes on your posts may simply not be appearing.

Is Instagram Withholding My Likes?

Science. This saga could all come down to science.

You know when your phone lights up with a notification of somebody liking your posts and it feels good? Well, that’s dopamine. Ergo, these notifications release more of the feel-good chemical which satisfies your thirst for social appreciation. And, this can be craved – big time.

Now, this is where the Globe and Mail come in.

The Globe and Mail Report

The Globe and Mail report that “the makers of smartphone apps rightly believe that part of the reason we’re so curious about those notifications is that people are desperately insecure and crave positive feedback with a kneejerk desperation.

Social media notifications have become part of every day. We constantly check them, possibly more so than emails. A 2015 study by British psychologists declared that the average user looks at their phone around 150 per day. And these attention-grabbing notifications and alerts are a serious culprit here.

According to the Globe and Mail report, “Matt Mayberry, who works at a California startup called Dopamine Labs, says it’s common knowledge in the industry that Instagram exploits this craving by strategically withholding “likes” from certain users. If the photo-sharing app decides you need to use the service more often, it’ll show only a fraction of the likes you’ve received on a given post at first, hoping you’ll be disappointed with your haul and check back again in a minute or two. “They’re tying in to your greatest insecurities,” Mr. Mayberry said.

One belief is that withholding likes would encourage those who do not use the app regularly to up the frequency they visit and post. Likes would be the reward.

Posting frequently + visiting app = more likes. 

This can all be tied back to a 1950s study by psychologist B.F. Skinner. Skinner discovered that sometimes treating lab mice for pushing a lever would result in the mice pushing the lever compulsively and constantly. Apply this to Instagram and notifications, and you have a reward-shaping behavioral conditioning process to encourage users to return to the app time and time again.

What Does Instagram Say?

Chief Technology Officer of Instagram, Mike Krieger, tweeted in response to Andy Coravos, CEO of ElectraLabs, that: “replication lag/etc. may mean things aren’t instantaneous but not intentionally so. and notifications we try and strike a balance of being timely + not over-sending notifs.”

You can read the full Globe and Mail report here.