Instagram Expands Test to Hide 'Likes' and Views on Posts

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Instagram is running tests that hide the number of likes users amass on their posts from the public, according to a Twitter announcement from the Facebook-owned social media company early Thursday morning. 

“We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get,” Instagram tweeted. This change to the user-interface aims to “remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive.” 

This news isn’t a total surprise. In April, users in Canada noticed their likes and views were hidden. According to Instagram tests are expanding to include users in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. 

Users in these countries can still see how many likes and views they receive on their own posts, but not how many others have. 

While Instagram hasn’t been subjected to the same criticism that Facebook has (especially as of late), researchers have called it one of the most toxic social media platforms for younger users. In a 2017 survey of 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds from the Royal Society for Public Health, Instagram was found to have the most negative effect on users overall compared to the other major social media platforms. 

Hannah Schacter, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Southern California who studies the digital health of minors, told HuffPost that “likes can be a powerful way of fulfilling teenagers’ desire for social belonging and approval.” 

“You could definitely see how teens who evaluate their own self-worth exclusively based on Instagram feedback would feel distressed when a photo they posted only gets 20 likes as opposed to their typical 50,” Schacter said.

Reactions on Twitter to Instagram’s announcement are mixed, with some users calling the change unnecessary (they would rather see a return to a chronological—not algorithmic—feed) and others celebrating the company’s attempt to alleviate the social anxieties that comes from “like” culture. 

Facebook Australia and New Zealand director of policy, Mia Garlick, spoke to the Guardian about the tests, saying, “we hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive.” 

“We can learn more about how this can benefit people’s experiences on Instagram, and whether this change can help people focus less on likes and more on telling their story.”