Instagram will begin a trial in Canada later this week which will remove Canadian users’ ability to see the likes on other people’s posts.
The trial comes after concern over the worsening mental health of particularly young social media users.
Curtin University Associate Professor Tama Leaver says hiding the likes will positively impact young people’s self-esteem.
“[The trial] stops Instagram from being such a competitive playing field, it stops people from obsessing over their likes or the likes of their friends and of people they have followed and hopefully put the focus back on the idea of communication and sharing [between close friends],” says Dr Leaver.
“This is a really positive move, especially for young people in terms of thinking about their self-esteem and not making Instagram so competitive.”
A 2017 research study by the Royal Society for Public Health and Young Health Movement ranked Instagram as the worst social media app for young people’s mental well-being.
Tahlia Newman, a student from Curtin University, says implementing the trial worldwide may prevent people from idolising influencers or other people based on popularity.
“We won’t be able to idolise people for their likes but it won’t change a personal gratification from our own likes,” says Ms Newman.
In an interview with the ABC, Melbourne GP Grant Blashki shared his concern on the toxic culture of comparison created by social media among teenagers.
“As a GP I see quite a lot of teens who are coming in and they’re comparing their own lives to a really unrealistic expectation that they’re seeing on social media,” says Dr Blashki.
Social media observers believe Instagram influencers who rely on a ‘heart-react’ business model are expected to bear the brunt of this change as potential clients will no longer be able to visibly see their reach.
However Dr Leaver notes that influencers will still have access from the backend on information such as how many likes they’re getting and how many impressions they are making per post.
“It’s just not really visible so they will have to cut and paste that and send that as a report to potential clients,” says Dr Leaver.
He also predicted this trial is unlikely to affect the marketing performance of businesses who rely on the Insta platform as a marketing tool as most users currently do not like ads.