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Whenever I sign in on Instagram (desktop or mobile versions), numbers appear on a red label.

The one shaped like a head and shoulders usually means new people are following me since the last login. The one with a comment bubble means new comments since my last login.

But the one with the heart does not mean the number of likes since my last login.

I have never seen the number be higher than 99, when most of my posts get around 50 likes in a few hours. This morning when I logged in the heart number was "39". I manually counted the likes for all 14 photos I posted yesterday and the total of likes is 421.

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Is this a bug? What does this number mean?

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It is a like counter, and it may or may not be buggy. Basically, these reasons can mess up the counter:

  • It is possible when people who gave you like immediately unlike your photo. That’s the reason why you get the information of liking your photo but your post did not show the likes. It means people took back the likes before you check the notification hence you can see the notices without real likes.
  • If you used tags, then tags attract likes from bots. These bots are deleted regularly by Instagram thus your likes may increase or decrease.
  • There is something wrong from server side that means the Instagram system did not update the like number as well as the exact like list for your account. Because the like updating will not happen immediately after each like, it needs some time to gather the likes and update it on the post. Hence, it is better to wait a while to let Instagram update the likes number and get you the suitable number of likes on your post.
  • Sometimes, Instagram shows out the virtual number of likes that is not an actual number of likes on your post. No matter what number is lower or higher than real likes number of your post, it will get back with real number soon with updating from Instagram.
  • Not having an updated version of the app, or a fully updated browser if you are using Instagram in the browser.
  • Getting too many likes in a short period of time. Instagram can't handle this sometimes.
  • When you share an Instagram photo on Facebook, you essentially create an alternate universe of likes. Likes on your Facebook Timeline will be visible on Facebook, but they do not transfer over to Instagram, or vice versa. This basically means someone can like your Instagram photos without needing an Instagram account.
  • It's a bug.

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