In July 2019 Instagram announced it would remove the like count in six countries across the world including; Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand – following what it deemed a successful trial in Canada in May 2019. In November 2019, it also expanded the trial to users in the US.
In these countries if you have an Instagram account you will be able to see the number of likes your post gets but your followers won’t. This extends to your news feed, permalinked pages, and on other people’s profile page. The announcement comes after Instagram was rated as the worst social media platform when it comes to its impact on young people’s mental health by a UK snapshot survey in 2018. Since then, the social media network has unveiled a number of initiatives designed to improve the well-being of its users including an anti-bullying initiative and pledging to remove all images involving self-harm and ‘thinspo’.
When the test was first run in Canada, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said the aim was to minimise the stress of posting online with users competing over the number of likes their posts receive. Instead, the platform wants users to focus on the photos and videos they share.
The number of likes is often seen as a measure of success or popularity and although likes can be mood-boosting and encouraging to users, they can also be deflating, especially if content doesn’t perform well.
The mental health repercussions of counting likes cannot be ignored and unfortunately the design of social media promotes social comparison. You don’t have to spend long on Instagram to find all sorts of people who seem to be living a more glamorous life than you. Feeling validated by the number of likes a post gets can create feelings of anxiety and depression and can be particularly detrimental to young people who may base their worth on these metrics.
Without a public tally of likes, it is likely that comments will become the key interactive focus for Instagram posts. Nonetheless, as the comments section is where the bulk of the damaging cyber-bullying and harassment takes place, the network will need to understand how this shift in focus may also affect users well-being, before committing to making the removal of likes permanent.
Despite the trial aiming to improve mental health, if using Instagram sometimes makes you feel stressed, anxious, depressed, or unwell, there are other steps you can take to improve your well-being while using the platform:
- Take a break
- Use a timer to limit your expose on the app
- Spend time with friends
- Be mindful of the reality behind images on Instagram
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member
At this stage, it’s unclear whether it will become a permanent feature and Instagram is welcoming any feedback from users.
Do you think removing likes is a good idea? Let us know in the comments below.
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