Instagram may no longer want you to like on Instagram. Screenshots uncovered by researcher Jane Manchun Wong show that Instagram may be considering shaking things up on its social media site so posts no longer show exactly how many people have liked your post. Instead, you would see that a post was liked by a few named handles “and others.”
Instagram is testing hiding like count from audiences,
as stated in the app: "We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get" pic.twitter.com/MN7woHowVN
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) April 18, 2019
“We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get,” Instagram says in an in-app message explaining the change. “During this test, only the person who shared a post will see the total number of likes it gets.” The message is seemingly targeted at influencers or would-be Influencers.
The change seems to stem from a growing belief that like counts are bad for users’ mental health and can lead people to dangerous situations in pursuit of photos that will generate a lot of likes. Back in 2016, Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom told TechCrunch that one of the reasons they created Instagram Stories was to get away from the pressure of like counts, and this could be the next stage in evolution toward a kinder, gentler Instagram.
Instagram confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s an internal test the public can’t see–yet. In a statement, an Instagram spokesperson said the feature is not being tested “at the moment,” but that “exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is something we’re always thinking about.”
Instagram’s test run comes just a month after Twitter hinted at a redesign that would make it harder to see retweet counts in a bid to slow herd mentality and further Twitter’s efforts to make the site less abusive, as founder Jack Dorsey discussed at TED.
The possible shift also comes in the wake of proposed regulation in the U.K. that would disable the “like” buttons on posts for anyone younger than 18 in the hopes of making social media safer for young users and their data. While liking a photo seems harmless (and is designed to seem so), whenever a user presses a “like” button, that information is used by advertisers to compile information about the user–many times without the young person’s knowledge.
This shift wouldn’t change that data-tracking ability, hide follower counts, or impact the way posts are ranked by Instagram’s omniscient algorithmic feed, but it’s a baby step to making social media slightly less terrible for your mental health.