Instagram has been testing a new version of their platform, but instead of adding a feature, the new version will take away the number of “likes” that is displayed below each post. Users can still manually click to see who has liked the post, but they will have to count every person on the list in order to know how many likes a post received.
The new version already has been tested in seven countries—Canada, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Japan and New Zealand. Instagram claims that eliminating the like count will be a positive effect, helping to curb some of the mental health issues raised by social media.
A study by the Royal Society for Public Health asked almost 1,500 young people (age 14 to 24) to rank the five most popular social media sites based on how they affect mental health, whether positive or negative. Instagram received the lowest score on the survey, meaning the test group thinks Instagram is worse for mental health than YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter.
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said, “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about.”
Numerous reports have highlighted the negative effects social media can have on mental and physical health. However, few social media platforms have worked to counter these effects.
In fact, most platforms do just the opposite by engineering their sites to be as addictive and engaging as possible. The longer users are on the platform, the better.
According to the Addiction Center, psychologists estimate that anywhere from five to 10% of Americans probably meet the criteria for social media addiction. And a recent survey by Common Sense Media found that 54% of teens (age 13-17) admitted to, at times, ignoring people in order to concentrate on social media.
Instagram’s step away from counting likes is not a complete solution to the problems social media poses; however, their attempt to experiment with their platform’s design shows promise, especially considering the potential backlash.
Many have already taken to the web in order to oppose the switch. Fearful of revenue loss, businesses and “influencers” are especially wary of the change. But according to Business Insider, social media influencers can still show their worth and gain advertising dollars.
In her article, Paige Leskin, a junior tech writer for Business Insider, said, “Likes are only ‘surface-level,’ while metrics like engagement and click-throughs of URLs in posts show more about the relationship an influencer has with their audience.”
The influencer market will therefore move toward other metrics. Just as manufacturers of cars are responsible for their customer’s safety, social media platforms should be too.
Instagram’s platform change demonstrates what needs to continue: testing, evaluating and implementing new designs to protect users.