Instagram will hide the number of ‘likes’ that posts in Ireland get in a trial to see whether people prefer a less competitive social media environment.
Instagram users will be able to see how many ‘likes’ their own posts get, but not those of other Instagram users’ posts.
“We are testing this because we want followers to focus on the photos and videos shared, not how many likes they get,” said an Instagram spokesman.
“We don’t want Instagram to feel like a competition. We hope to learn whether this change can help people focus less on likes and more on telling their story.”
The move is likely to be welcomed by parents and childrens’ welfare organisations. Social media platforms like Instagram have long been associated with negative effects on self-esteem because of their portrayal of idealised lives among peers and the apparent popularity of friends and acquaintances. A new study of 3,826 adolescents in Canada found that social media may be associated with teenage depression as kids compare themselves with filtered, unrealistic images of others.
However, Instagram users will still be shown the number of comments that other users’ posts attract. This may lead to the number of visible comments being used as a proxy for popularity. If so, it may also see more controversial content being posted on Instagram as users look for validation from debates, arguments and comments. To date, Instagram has been seen as the least controversial of the major social media platforms, largely avoiding the controversy over ‘fake news’ and hate speech that plagues other platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
“We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves,” said Tara Hopkins, head of public policy, EMEA at Instagram. “This includes helping people to focus on the photos and videos they share, not how many likes they get. We are now rolling the test out to more countries so we learn more from our global community and see how this can benefit people's experiences on Instagram.”
Ireland is not the first country to undergo the Instagram trial. The company, which is part of the Facebook group, conducted trial along similar lines in Canada. A spokeswoman for the company declined to say what the company’s takeaways from the trial were.
“This test is an extension of a test that began in Canada in May but there’s still a lot we want to learn when it comes to how this test impacts the Instagram experience,” said the spokeswoman.
“People can still see their own likes by tapping on the liker list, but others will not be able to see how many likes a post has received. Likewise, an Instagram user will not be able to see how many likes others' posts have received.”