Does Instagram stress you out? Have you felt the cold dread that comes about 10 minutes after you've posted a photo, and instead of the expected dopamine rush that comes from those gratifying "like" notifications, you instead feel nothing, a complete lack of human interaction, not even a single like, and you start to wonder if anyone in the world actually loves you at all?
If so, you may be the kind of person Instagram is hoping to help in a new test they're unrolling this week.
The photo- and video-sharing giant announced on Tuesday at a conference held by their parent company, Facebook, that Instagram will experiment with removing the number of likes from people's posts. There will be an indication that a photo has been liked, but it won't display how many people liked it. A user can click to see who's liked their photo, but that list won't be visible to other people.
An Instagram rep confirmed to HuffPost Canada that the feature will be tested on a "randomized" group of Canadian users. If you're in the test, you'll be alerted once you open the app.
The goal, they said, is to get people to focus on the content of their feed and not their engagement numbers.
Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri told BuzzFeed News that the move aims to create "a less pressurized" social media environment.
"We do hear people worry about how many like counts they get," he said.
Critics of the app and similar platforms say that spending hours daily looking at curated photos of aspirational lifestyles can be harmful to people's self-image. Basically, it's hard not to look repeatedly at beautiful people in gorgeous locales, having elaborate weddings or preparing sumptuous meals or wearing designer clothing and not feel ugly, worthless, and broke — and the like-based competition only adds to that pressure.
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A 2017 survey of teens and young adults in the U.K. found that Instagram was the most harmful social media platform for youth mental health. Depression, loneliness, self-identity and body image were among the factors being evaluated across platforms.
Jennifer Grygiel, a communications professor at Syracuse University who uses they/them pronouns, told Global News they don't foresee a dramatic change on social media-related mental health based on Instagram's possible change.
"We have to view most product updates in the lens of 'the corporation is going to do what's good for the corporation,'" they said. "We need to assume that given Facebook's history, the company is acting in its own self-interest."
The Instagram rep told HuffPost Canada that the test won't necessarily result in a permanent change, but that they're trying it out to see if it does result in better experiences.
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