Does seeing the number of “likes” on a post stress you out? Now all users on Instagram (and soon Facebook) will have the option to hide public like counts on their posts — and choose whether or not they see likes on other people’s posts.
The move comes after Instagram has been testing hiding like counts for about a year and a half. That initiative was designed to see if the Facebook-owned app could “depressurize” the user experience and “make it less of a competition,” CEO Adam Mosseri said in late 2019.
The Instagram team’s conclusions from the test? While some users said they benefitted from not seeing like counts, others found it annoying “particularly because people use like counts to get a sense for what’s trending or popular,” Instagram said in a blog post Wednesday announcing the likes-hiding features.
For that reason, Instagram and Facebook will give individual users choices about viewing likes.
Starting Wednesday, Instagram users can hide like counts for all posts in their feed, as well as hide them on their own posts (so others can’t see how many likes their posts get). “This way, if you like, you can focus on the photos and videos being shared, instead of how many likes posts get,” Instagram said in its announcement.
On Instagram, you can hide like counts on others’ posts by visiting the new Posts section in the Settings menu. You can choose to hide like counts before sharing a post, and you can toggle that setting on or off even after it goes live. In the next few weeks, Facebook also will be launching both controls.
Instagram said the company worked closely with third-party experts on the development of the features. For a new Instagram guide that offers advice on how to deal with social pressure online, the company collaborated with The Jed Foundation, a not-for-profit organization with the mission of preventing suicide among teens and young adults, and Instagram creators including artist and “spiritual coach” Bunny Michael and collegiate trans athlete Schuyler Bailar.
The company is positioning the likes-hiding options as the latest tools to give users more control. For example, Instagram has introduced tools to let people filter out offensive content from their DMs, as well as hiding requests, muting other users and tracking time spent.
At the same time, Facebook is currently developing a version of Instagram for kids under 13 — a project that more than 40 U.S. state attorneys general have urged the company to abandon, citing risks including research showing that social media can be harmful to the emotional and mental well-being of children.
Instagram says it’s continuing to invest in research on how to improve the service’s impact on users’ mental health. Earlier this year, Instagram issued a call for research proposals “to help us better understand experiences on Instagram that may or may not contribute to the safety and health of our community,” especially research into topics that may affect teens or underserved or vulnerable communities. More info is available at this link.