Popular photo-sharing platform Instagram has already tested hiding users’ likes in seven countries — now, the United States is joining the party. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced the Facebook-owned company will hide likes for “some users” starting next week, to try to decrease competitive pressure.
For many people, posting on Instagram is a source of validation, with the number of likes received an indicator of how popular a person, or picture, is. In Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand, Instagram has launched this trial removal, which Mosseri says is aimed at young people.
“The idea is to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition,” Mosseri said at the Wired 25 Conference, CNN reported. At the conference, he estimated that out of the several hundred people in the audience, “some” would “definitely see their likes hidden.”
With the new system, the number of ‘likes’ a post gets will not be visible on Instagram’s feed or a user’s profile page. The user can still see how many likes they’ve received, but their followers will not. This makes it much harder for users to compare whose pictures are more popular.
Instagram, like other social media companies, has been under pressure to address the issues of self-confidence and mental health many feel the app encourages. This move is part of a larger trend to monitor content more positively and proactively, and try to prevent a “phone addiction” epidemic from spreading.
The response has been mixed. Some users are relieved the pressure has been lifted. Others aren’t so happy. Many Instagram “influencers” rely on their like counts to attract brand deals and make a living; without ‘likes’ it’s hard for brands to make sure their sponsorships are worthwhile.
Parentology asked Instagram users to weigh in.
Lucy Shapiro, a junior at the University of Portland, thinks the like-removal is a “phenomenal idea.” She sees it as a way to make Instagram more “casual,” allowing users to be more authentic without the “pressure of likes.”
Dale Mattson, a 57-year-old entrepreneur, avid Instagram user and father of three, agrees, too. He believes “Instagram shouldn’t be competitive,” and that “only [the user] should be able to see their likes.” Mattson said he often tells his kids to “just live [their] life and share happiness online.”
Devin Smaltz, a 22-year-old student at Pasadena’s Institute of Culinary Education, isn’t so sure. “Teenagers have always been insecure,” she says. “Social media has definitely increased the pressure to be perfect, but that’s just part of the age we live in.” Smaltz says she understands the aim of Mosseri’s decision, but thinks “it would be more beneficial for [teens] to learn to process feelings of jealousy on their own.”
Follower counts will still be visible, but if influencers usually get a high proportion of likes with fewer followers, this could be shifting the Instagram metric out of their favor.
“We have to see how it affects how people feel about the platform,” Mosseri said. “I’ve been spending a lot of time on this personally.”