From July Australian Instagram users no longer see the number of ‘likes’ an Instagram post receives, in a major shakeup announced by the social media giant.
Aussie users will now notice that posts show a user name “and others like this” below a post instead of the number of likes.
Users will be able to see the number of likes their own posts received, not others’. If you really want to know who exactly liked someone else’s post, you’ll be able to click through to bring up a list of the users who liked the post.
Australia is the second site for the test feature, which already rolled out to Canadian users in May this year.
So why hide the number of likes on a platform built upon popularity and vanity? According to Mia Garlick, the Director of Public Policy for Facebook and Instagram in Australia and New Zealand, it’s all about taking the “competition” out of posting.
“We know that people come to Instagram to express themselves and to be creative and follow their passions. And we want to make sure it’s not a competition,” Mia Garlick told Hack.
The decision comes at a critical moment of soul-searching for Instagram. The platform, started by a computer programmer and engineer in 2010, has spent nine years skyrocketing away from its humble roots: Instagram now has more than a billion active users and is owned by one of the most powerful – and controversial – companies in the world.
It seems that the economy of likes – where a tiny red heart is quite literally used as currency to drive influencers’ careers – has increasingly lost meaning, too. Remember: a picture of an egg holds the record for the most instagram likes.
Not only are likes becoming less revelant, Mia says the move to hide the number of ‘likes’ will ease the “pressure” on users when they’re posting selfies and sunsets.
“We want to make sure that people are not feeling like they should like a particular post because it’s getting a lot of likes, and that they shouldn’t feel like they sharing solely to get likes,” Mia says.
This idea of ‘likes’ being a source of anxiety for young people fits in with a growing body of research about Instagram’s effects on mental wellbeing.
Two years ago, a UK study of people aged 14 – 24 found that Instagram was the worst social media platform for young people’s mental health; last year the Pew Research Center found 37 per cent of teens felt “pressure” to post content that will get a lot of likes and comments; and this year, research from the American Psychological Association linked mental health issues and an increase of suicide rates in young Americans to digital media.
Mia Garlick says hiding likes, and last week’s announcement of further anti-bullying features on the platform are all designed to improve the wellbeing of users.
“[Those tools] have all been rolled out to help people have a sense of control.”
Users who have business accounts – like influencers or brands – will still be able to access their account ‘insights’ page to see how many likes their posts have received. Instagram says they don’t currently have plans to hide the follower counts of users.