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Instagram and Facebook let you hide your likes
Illustration Marianne Wilson

Instagram lets you hide your likes to take the pressure off posting

Facebook has also made displaying like counts optional, but both platforms have stopped short of removing them altogether

In an effort to “depressurise people’s experience” on their respective platforms, Facebook and Instagram are now letting users hide the likes on posts in their public feed. Announced earlier this week, the change also gives users control over whether their own posts display a like count, so others can’t see how many likes they’ve received.

This decision has been a long time coming; various social media companies have been experimenting with removing likes for some time. In May 2019, Instagram first announced it was trialling the removal of like counts in Canada, followed by a US trial later that year. Unsurprisingly, Instagram developer Facebook followed suit on its own platform, while YouTube and Twitter have similarly tried removing engagement metrics.

Apparently, the results of the Facebook and Instagram experiments — which were put on pause due to COVID-19 — inspired the new changes, which stop short of a full ban on displaying like counts. “What we heard from people and experts was that not seeing like counts was beneficial for some, and annoying to others,” reads the announcement from Instagram. 

It adds that the tech giant went for an opt-in approach “because people use like counts to get a sense for what’s trending or popular”. Of course, likes also help prop up the massively-profitable influencer economy, and — for better or worse — act as a way for influencers to prove their engagement to potential employers.

On the other hand, likes have long been linked to concern for users’ mental health and happiness. In 2020, a study published in Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies showed that sharing selfies on Instagram — and, importantly, receiving high numbers of likes and positive comments — is tied to living a happier life

Another study by Computers in Human Behavior, shared earlier that year, found a correlation between selfie-posting on Facebook and Instagram and grandiose narcissism, characterised by an overinflated ego and sense of self-importance. 

According to TechCrunch, the like-hiding feature on Facebook and Instagram was rolled out to a small percentage of users this week, but will reach the apps’ global audience “over the next few weeks”.