Over the past several years, Instagram has evolved into a platform in which a person's worth is often measured by followers and likes. It's an aspect that has helped influencers secure lucrative sponsorships; however, many experts believe this online popularity contest has had adverse effects on mental health, while some users have even lost their lives in the pursuit of likes and shares.
In an effort to combat the widespread obsession with "likes," Instagram will launch a test that hides these figures from the public. The company confirmed the move during Facebook's F8 conference Tuesday.
"We are testing this because we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get," an Instagram spokesperson told Techcrunch. "[...] We understand that this is important for many creators, and while this test is in exploratory stages, we are thinking through ways for them to communicate value to their brand partners."
The test will begin next week in Canada among a small percentage of users. The likes will no longer be seen on the main feed, permalink pages, or profiles; the only person who can see the number of likes will be the owner of the account.
"For teenagers, this is great because it would no longer highlight levels of popularity of themselves against other kids," Randi Priluck, a Pace University professor who specializes in social media, told Techcrunch. "But they're still going to see their own likes. People are very driven by rewards so they're still going to be competing for those likes. It's not going to fully solve the problem."
We first received word about this test earlier this month, when tech researcher Jan Manchun Wong shared screenshots of the interface change. As you can see below, the number of likes is no longer shown, but the handles of those who liked the photo or video still appear.
News of the test was, naturally, met with mixed reactions.
Instagram also announced several other changes Tuesday that will affect its Stories and Shopping features. These include a donations sticker in which users can raise money for nonprofits via story posts; a feature that allows creators to sell products to others directly their posts and Stories; and a new camera design with Create Mode, which "will make it simpler to use popular creative tools like effects and interactive stickers, so you can express yourself more freely."