Instagram recently launched a test to hide the number of likes a post has received. This is currently being tested in seven countries including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, prior to potentially being expanded to a wider audience. The idea is that the number of likes will only be visible to the user who posted the photo, allowing one to focus on the content (side note – I cannot stand the word ‘content’) itself.
Instagram have stated “We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love”. Supposedly, the purpose of this new approach is to improve users’ mental health, and I really wish this was the case. These changes aren’t being implemented due to mental health concerns; it’s simply about money (it’s highly likely that Instagram’s ad revenue will increase).
Regardless of Instagram’s intentions, this feels like a step in the right direction. According to research carried out by The Royal Society for Public Health, Instagram is the worst social platform for mental health. ‘Worst’ in this context is subjective (plus I don’t want to neglect the positive impact that the platform can have) but ensuring that Instagram is a safe a place as possible is crucial.
By removing likes, users can seriously think about the type of content that they are creating. This could completely change the way that we interact with Instagram, removing the pressure to gain ‘likes’ on your posts.
Of course, it’s not that simple. There are numerous studies that highlight a link between the amount of time spent on social media and poor mental health, and simply removing the ‘like’ function is only a small piece of the puzzle. The Royal Society for Public Health has made some great recommendations, such as the introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning. They also recommend that companies find a way of highlighting content that has been digitally manipulated, alongside asking for the government’s help in teaching safe social media use in schools.
Personally, I (speaking as a ‘normal’ person as opposed to an influencer with 86,275,380 followers) don’t feel any pressure to gain ‘likes’ on my posts; I genuinely post the content that I enjoy posting – much like my blog, where I no longer focus solely on running related posts because my interests branch out further than that. I want to talk about mental health and wellbeing, feminism, fitness, diet culture – all things which come under the health umbrella but ultimately, these are the things that I want to share with others. I would hope that a like-free Instagram encourages others to share a similar mindset.