As a way to overhaul Instagram in Australia, the popular photo-sharing platform plans to stop showing the total number of likes your photo has accumulated — relatively bad news for most social media influencers or what we call “Instagram models.”
Instagram on Thursday rolls out a trial update that removes several functionalities such as the total number of likes on photos, the viewing of videos on user feeds and profiles, and permalink pages. Meanwhile, you can still check the total number of your photos.
The said update will be mandatory in all devices, says in a report by Channel 7. However, in Australia, that has the app, will receive the update whether they like it or not.
The trial update expands on a similar change to other countries—which was initially introduced in Canada last May— such as New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, Italy, and Brazil.
Notably, the Guardian noted that Australia was among the first countries chosen for the trial due to its fast-growing and highly engaging community of Instagram users and tech enthusiasts.
The change Instagram is taking follows the research that accuses the platform of becoming a very hostile application and threatens teenagers’ mental health.
“The idea is to just really let you focus on the content and the experience of engaging without being worried or feeling pressured over how many likes a post has received,” says Instagram Australia’s Director of Policy.
In today’s generation, people are seeking validation from the Internet. For Instagram, the more red hearts a photo gets means that more people like that perception of you. Furthermore, the photo-based platform was appreciated because it provided a space for self-expression and self-identity.
However, it also cannot be denied that it has helped shape unrealistic goals based on two-dimension photos or curated content. Recently, the platform was associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying, and FOMO, or the “fear of missing out.”
A 2017 UK study found that out of five major social networks, Instagram was the most harmful to young people’s mental health. Snapchat followed, with Facebook going third, Twitter fourth, and YouTube fifth.
Last year, the Pew Research Center found that 37 percent of teens felt “pressure” to post content that will get a lot of likes and comments; and this year, research from the American Psychological Association linked mental health issues and an increase of suicide rates in young Americans due to digital media.
To workaround the pressing issues within the platform, Instagram has decided to remove the number of likes from appearing on other people’s profile.
“We want to make sure that people are not feeling like they should like a particular post because it’s getting a lot of likes and that they shouldn’t feel like they [are] sharing solely to get likes,” The Facebook Australia and New Zealand director of policy, Mia Garlick said.
The company hopes that this change will foster a new environment, where users will get to share content, photos, videos, and “the things you love” without the fear of judgment or the pressure “accumulating likes.”
“We are now rolling the test out to Australia so we can learn more about how this can benefit people’s experiences on Instagram, and whether this change can help people focus less on likes and more on telling their story,” Garlick adds.
In line with Instagram’s move on mitigating the brewing problem on its users’ mental health, it has also taken steps in addressing the issue of bullying.
Earlier in July, Instagram released an AI-powered feature that lets users know of a possible offensive comment. When a user types out “You are so ugly and stupid,” for example, a user will get a notification that states “Are you sure you want to post this?”
On the other hand, it is quite uncertain how this change will significantly affect Instagram influencers. Primarily, these people earn their salaries based on the number of likes a specific post gets, their number of followers, and overall engagement.
Instagram says that the change won’t affect measurement tools for businesses and creators on Instagram, such as likes and engagement metrics. Influencers could still see those numbers and share them via self-reporting to brands looking to work for them.
However, in a society where the number of likes attracts new followers and more engagement, it will be interesting to see how the business model will change once all of that said features were removed.