Get ready for some potential major changes to your Instagram experience.
Wired reports that the social media app will soon start testing a new feature in the U.S. that hides users’ “like” counts from public view; a similar update has previously been tested in other countries including Canada, Australia, and Japan.
The feature was unveiled by Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri on Friday, November 8, at San Francisco’s WIRED25 festival. As noted by Wired, the hidden “likes” feature is part of Instagram’s larger mission to become “the safest place on the internet,” a plan that includes strategies such as comment filters and other tools tied to mental health and users’ wellbeing.
While the upcoming test will not impact the entire U.S., Mosseri indicated that he hopes the feature will help younger Instagram users. “It's about young people,” the CEO said at WIRED25 in conversation with Arielle Pardes and Tracee Ellis Ross, per NPR. “The idea is to try to 'depressurize' Instagram, make it less of a competition and give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them.” Instagram isn’t alone in this kind of experiment; in September, Wired reported that other apps including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are toying with the idea of removing certain metrics in exchange for (hopefully) a healthier user engagement.
Mosseri’s announcement has been met with mixed reactions on social media, with some people pointing out that influencers rely on that kind of data for business purposes, and even non-influencers can enjoy “likes” for personal reasons. However, are viewing the possible change as a refreshing one, with one person writing on Twitter: “Start posting to share experiences and memories, not for likes.”
But what about those young people Mosseri is trying to target? Flora, an 18-year-old student at Concordia University told Teen Vogue that she doesn’t really mind the idea of Instagram hiding likes, especially because she mostly uses the app to stay connected with friends. “It’s one less thing I need to worry about when using the app,” she explained. “There is no pressure on me to have my posts retain the same interaction, or to feel the need to be validated based on who is liking my content.”
That said, Flora also uses the app for business purposes, and she expressed concerns as a creator. "Viewing 'likes' can be beneficial to see which companies...are interested and actively following my growth as an artist."
Steve, a 22-year-old photographer from Chattanooga, isn't too worried about the possible change; in fact, he welcomes it. “With likes taken away, the value of the share and the comment goes up,” he explained. “It forces engagement between people; in my opinion, IG users have become robots. They just scroll and ‘like’ things as a form of habit.”
For Merveline, a grad student at Florida International University, the key is that the “likes” are hidden from the public. “If the account owner can still see their 'likes,' then I don't think it matters,” the 24-year-old told Teen Vogue, adding: “I use Instagram…as a way to say ‘hello’ to loved ones, or an exchange of contact with new people. It’s my favorite way to spread positivity….”
But Evanna, a student at Exeter University, has some doubts about the correlation of “likes” and her own mental health. “Usually, what makes me the most anxious…about my own life isn't the amount of ‘likes’ a person has, but the…perfect and edited version of their life that they are presenting to the world,” she told Teen Vogue, adding that the most helpful tactics have been limiting the amount of time she spends on the app and cleaning out her follow list when needed. “Are you following them because you know them…or so you can keep track of what you [think] you need to strive to be like?”
Ultimately, the outcome of Instagram’s hidden “likes” feature remains to be seen. As Mosseri himself explained: “We have to see how it affects how people feel about the platform, how it affects how they use the platform, how it affects the creator ecosystem.” So keep an eye on your feeds — and take note of how you feel if those little hearts disappear on your screen, too.
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue