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Instagram lets users hide likes to reduce social media pressure

The aim is to “depressurize people’s experience” on the platform, the social media giant said.

Users with the feature enabled will now see the username of a follower who has liked the post, “and others”, instead of a number.

The tool has been tested in several countries since 2019, but it is now being rolled out globally.

“This has taken longer than I had hoped, but I am pretty excited about… giving people more control over the experience,” Instagram’s boss Adam Mosseri told the BBC.

Mental health

In its testing and research, Instagram said that removing likes had little impact on behaviour or wellbeing – after concerns that using the platform could be linked to insecurity and poor mental health.

A recent Oxford Internet Institute study also found there was “little association” between social media use and mental health in teenagers.

How posts look with Like Counts enabled (L) and hidden (R)

Despite this, Mr Mosseri said Instagram – which is owned by Facebook – introduced the feature to make “people feel good about the time they spend” on the platform.

“I do think there’s more to do in this space,” he added. “The more we can give people the ability to shape Instagram and Facebook into what’s good for them, the better.”

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How to activate it

The feature can be switched on or off at any time. To change it:

  • Go to Settings
  • Enter the new Posts section
  • Select Hide Like and View Counts

Even if a user has Like Counts enabled, they will not be able to see the number of likes on accounts or posts that have hidden them.

Users will also have the option hide counts on a specific post, before and after it goes live on the platform.

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‘Less worried’

“The spirit of this is to give people a choice,” Mr Mosseri added, using the example of going through a break-up in a relationship or switching schools.

“Maybe you want to be a little bit less worried about how many likes everyone’s getting for a couple weeks or a couple of months, and then maybe you want to switch back.

“If it’s a one-way door, people tend to get hesitant about using the control.”

Instagram’s algorithm will still take the number of likes into account when promoting posts on the platform, but it also takes into consideration other factors, such as what the user follows or engages with.

Mr Mosseri said there had been a “polarised” reaction from creators – accounts which make money through brand partnerships and advertising on the platform – but that the new feature didn’t affect revenues.

Instagram for children

Earlier this year, concerns were raised over leaked plans to design a version of Instagram for children.

Plans to create an Instagram for under-13s were not “fully fledged”, Mr Mosseri said, explaining that it was difficult to verify ages, as children often didn’t have IDs.

“It has to be more responsible to give parents oversight and transparency than to have kids continue to lie about their age.”

He said the app would “take some time” to create.