Instagram announced Thursday it was testing a feature in certain countries that hides the number of likes on posts from followers. Instagram says hiding likes is designed “to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes get.” The idea of hiding likes echoes a growing sentiment from tech executives and celebrities that such features can have disastrous effects on teens’ mental health and social media addiction. Instagram has started testing a much rumored feature in several countries that will hide from your followers the number of likes you get on your posts. Instagram announced Thursday it was “running a test” on some users, a couple months after rumors first emerged that the photo-sharing platform was testing such a feature. Hiding the number of likes is designed to put “focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get,” Instagram wrote on Twitter. The experiment with hiding likes affects “some people” in seven countries Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. The “like” feature won’t be hidden completely; users can see the number of likes on their own posts, but not on others’ pictures and videos.
Instagram confirmed in May that it was testing hiding likes on users’ newsfeeds. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, told Buzzfeed News that the purpose of the test was to create “a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.” But Instagram isn’t the only platform to weigh the effect of like-count on users’ mental health. Twitter CEOJack Dorsey has said if he had to go back and re-design the platform, he “wouldn’t even have a like count in the first place.” Dorsey has floated the idea before of getting rid of the “like” button to ensure the platform is incentivizing healthy conversion, but Twitter has denied that will happen anytime soon.
There are several studies and numerous psychologists that have found a link between the amount of time teens spend on social media and depression. Celebrities such as Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato have publicly spoken out about needing to take breaks from their social media accounts in order to care for their mental health. Gomez has said social media has been “dangerous” for both herself and for teens. Any number of people who have spent time on social media can attest to its addictive qualities. Some young users in Canada who have already had a chance to test out an Instagram with hidden likes told the Huffington Post that their experiences have been positive. “Personally, I love not seeing the like count,” 22-year-old Sarah Roberts told HuffPost. “It feels a bit weird to say, but I’ve stopped comparing myself to bigger accounts. I’ve also been more personal with the things I actually like versus what everyone else is liking.