What’s not to like? Instagram’s trial to hide the number of ‘likes’ could save users’ self-esteem

What to like or not like about Instagram hiding the number of "likes" on posts

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 Instagram is running a social media experiment to see what happens when it hides the number of likes on photos and other postings of people's accounts. If you have an Instagram account, you'll get to see the numbers but your friends won't. They will be able to click and see who liked your post but will have to count the list of names themselves.

 The trial is taking place right now in six countries, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. Canada have just finished their trial.

 It’s a bold move on Instagram’s behalf. There has been much anxiety and concern about the effect of social media on the mental health and self–esteem of young people. Instagram’s reasoning for this as a bold stand is to counter that concern. Instagram says: "We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get." 

  But isn't social media all about how many likes you get?

Likes and the public display of those likes has become the heart of Instagram and many other social media platforms. Removing the public display of likes can be likened to taking the battery out of an Energizer bunny.

 Likes can provide helpful feedback on your photographic skills and creativity, or can be a way of quickly connecting with a friend when you are time poor. Research also indicates that as social media platforms and largely youth oriented, that likes and other engagement with social media posts help to educate and reaching adolescents with for example, health messages to promote mental wellbeing. The public display of Likes can feel like getting a gold star. People can want others to see their success. It’s a public affirmation that they’re doing good work. The removal of Likes can reduce these positive experience users want from it.  

 The research that points to the connection social media likes and negative mental health repercussions cannot be ignored. The design of social media promotes social comparison. It is very easy to find a plethora of people of social media who are better looking than you, more successful, or whose lives are much more glamourous. As a result young people can feel like they are lacking, inadequate and not worthy. Ongoing social comparison of this kind can have negative connotations on one’s self-esteem and mental health.

 Will ‘Comments’ become the new ‘Likes’?

Comments can still be made on Instagram and its likely that they will strengthen as a measurement tool for how people interact with postings. Comments do of course come in many forms. They may be an emoji, positive or negative in tone, and still effect how one feels about themselves and their self-worth.


Will Instagram’s Popularity Decrease?

Yesterday, Instagram was one of the most used apps in Australia and other parts of the world. Just hours into the test, the reaction on social media is mixed. Some like the chnage and feel more open to posting images without fear of not getting likes. Many are disgruntled about the change, feel manipulated by the platform, and state that the platform has lost its appeal, particularly for those who use Instagram to support their business. People could move away from Instagram if they don't feel it benefits them the social media benefits they want. This leaves the market open for new social media platforms to be developed that include a public Likes feature.

 Is this a PR stunt?

 If this is a genuine move by Instagram to address the negative effect of social mental health, then it’s an important test and the results may be very beneficial for some. Let’s hope it is. It could also be a PR strategy that aims to counter the floundering reputation of Facebook, who is owns Instagram. Time will tell.