Trial by Instagram to conceal the amount of ‘likes’ might save the self-esteem of users. What’s not to like about it?

Instagram is currently implementing an experiment on social media in Australia and elsewhere to see what happens when it hides the amount of likes on pictures and other posts. If you have an Instagram account, you will see the numbers, but your followers will not –not automatically, at least. You will be able to click and see who liked your post, but you will have to count the names list on your own.

The trial is being held in six nations right now: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. Canada has just completed its trial. It’s Instagram’s bold move, but possibly a necessary one. There is increasing concern about the impact of social media on the mental health and self-esteem of young people.

Explained Instagram: We want your friends to concentrate on the pictures and videos you share, not how many they like.

Likes have become the core of Instagram and many other social media platforms, along with their government tallying. Does Instagram risk devaluing a critical currency by hiding them? It can feel like getting a gold star to receive loads of likes. It’s a public statement that you’re doing a good job – a useful bit of quantitative feedback on your photographic abilities or creativity. You will still get the gold star under the new trial, but privately, and without wider recognition.

However, it is not possible to ignore the mental health repercussions of counting likes. Social media design fosters social comparison. You don’t have to spend much time on Instagram to discover a host of individuals that are obviously better-looking, more successful, and more glamorous than you are.

As a result, it can leave young people feeling insufficient and unworthy. Teens report that social media makes them feel closer to colleagues (78%), more educated (49%) and family-related (42%). Yet many teens also report feeling pressure to always show the best versions of themselves (15%), overloaded with information (10%), overwhelmed (9%), or the dreaded “fear of missing out” (9%).

Depending on the specific attitude of a person at the moment, these beneficial and negative responses can escalade.

Will comments become the new likes?

It is probable that posts will become an even greater measure of how individuals interact with a specific Instagram post without a government tally of likes. Comments can, of course, consist of anything from an emoji to an essay, so they are much more varied and adaptable than you like. However, they can still affect the emotions and self-worth of users, especially since comments can be both negative and positive (as opposed to likes).

So far, the reaction between Australian users of Instagram has been mixed. Many are upset about the change, feel manipulated by the platform, and argue that the change will diminish the appeal of Instagram, especially among those who use it to support their business. But others applauded the move on the basis of mental health, while others still reported feeling the distinction the experiment is intended to produce.

Nevertheless, if they don’t feel it benefits them the way they want, people could potentially move away from Instagram. Finally, there is the question of whether a global mega-brand is merely a PR stunt. It may be natural to be sceptical about the social media sector. But if this is a real move by Instagram to improve the adverse impacts of social media on mental health, then it is a precious experiment, and some may find the findings very useful. Let’s hope so.

Article originally featured by The Conversation.

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