Instagram will start killing off public “likes” in the U.S. next week, a step aimed at making the service less of a sport that destroys self-esteem.
“The idea is to try depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition,” Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said on Friday at a conference in San Francisco hosted by Wired magazine. “It’s really focused on young people.”
Earlier this year, Instagram announced plans to hide the number of likes users get on their posts. Authors of the content will still be able to see the total, but the public won’t.
In September, Facebook followed suit saying it also planned to hide likes. The test has already started in Australia.
The moves represents an increased focus on users’ well-being, something Facebook, which owns Instagram, has been researching in recent years. The shift comes after Facebook, as a company, has faced intense criticism for spreading misinformation, serving as a tool for bullying and abuse, and promoting hateful content.
“Likes” have helped to create a generation of young influencers on Facebook and Instagram who have made careers out of promoting products on social media. As with regular users, their “like” totals serve as a sort of pecking order of popularity.
When pressed about whether Instagram would roll back hiding likes if people end up using the service less, Mosseri said that he would stand by the decision.
“We will make decisions that hurt the business if it’s good for people’s well-being and health,” he said.
But Mosseri also said that Instagram doesn’t know if the move, which was couched as a test after already being implemented in seven other countries, will be “good for people’s well-being.” So the company will try to track whether the move will reduce anxiety and negative emotions related to users’ comparing themselves to their friends.
“I hope it will put pressure on all sorts of platforms,” he said about Instagram’s decision, adding that he will continue to encourage Facebook in its testing.
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