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Instagram censors ‘likes’ in trial move to reduce social media pressures

In a move to make Instagram a safer space for people to post, the social media application has started to hide the number of likes that can be seen on users’ photos.

Currently, the trial has been rolled out in Australia to see how users respond to the newest change. Australia was chosen due to its highly engaged and generally tech-savvy audience. The application’s changes allow the owner of an account to see who has liked their posts but removes other users’ access.

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Instagram explained the motivation behind this change:

“We want your followers to focus on what you share; not how many likes you get. During this test, only the person who shared a post will see the total number of likes it gets.”

This trial has the potential to reduce the amount of pressure experienced by social media users to have the perfect feed, the perfect selfies, and perfect, filtered life. By removing the ability to see how many likes your peers acquire on their photos, Instagram has effectively made the app more user-friendly.

If the implementation of the trial is successful in Australia then this trial will soon be rolled out in New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, Italy and Brazil.

After the trial is completed Instagram will decide whether to make this change a permanent fixture.

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via Giphy

This can boost mental health and body positivity, especially for young teenagers and adults struggling with their confidence. It implies that you can no longer compare yourself to other people using Instagram likes as a personification of your self-worth (aka validation culture). It will also alleviate the pressure to post certain types of content just because they attract more engagement from followers.

There has been negative media attention directed at Instagram for being the worst social media platform regarding mental health as shown in studies which found that 70% of anxiety and depression-related issues are linked to Instagram use. Due to this, the focus of Instagram has been for some time now to make mental health a stronger priority on its platform – this led to the creation of Insta stories, which are widely successful and temporary – which means they take away the stress of receiving lots of likes. Subsequently, this new addition to the way posts are viewed seems like a natural progression.

On the negative side, this change may have a strong damaging impact on social media influencers who rely on public participation and engagement on their posts so that they can partner with brands and get sponsored to promote their products and services.

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It will also make it incredibly difficult to know what posts are popular on the app now, which inherently takes away ‘trending’ content that influencers rely on to remain relevant concerning what they post.

I think for everyday users of the social media platform this is a positive change that will allow people to share more free content that makes them genuinely happy, without getting wrapped up in worrying about how many people ‘like’ the post. Perhaps Instagram could apply this change only to smaller accounts and let big accounts with a certain amount of followers keep likes so it does not detract from their earnings as an influencer – if the content isn’t trending it is hard to be influential. I think this change overall is exciting and I can’t wait to see the impact it has on social media posts and happiness levels of users.




Featured image via Unsplash