Instagram users able to hide ‘likes’ feature in a bid to ‘depressurise’ the platform

Instagram has launched a new option to allow users to hide ‘likes’ from others’ photos on their feed, and on their own photos.

From today (26 May) all Instagram and Facebook users will be able to use the tool, which was piloted previously by influencers and content creators.

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The move comes after concerns were raised over the impact of the platform on people’s mental health and self-esteem, with some feeling the number of ‘likes’ contributed to popularity and validation in other aspects of their lives.

Young people in particular have shown signs, in various studies, of equating followers’ interactions on their posts as a sign of popularity, or more damaging, lack of interactions leading to a sense of low self-worth.

‘Depressurise Instagram’

Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said the new feature will allow different users to decide how they want to use the platform, with influencers - many of whom are paid to advertise brands on their sites - still able to see their likes and those of others.

Users will also be able to turn the ‘like’ views off and on, allowing them to take a break if they feel pressured by the likes feature appearing on their photos and timeline.

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Mosseri revealed that during testing some influencers and content creators had expressed concerns at losing like counts because they used the figures to understand what was trending and popular on the site, but that many others welcomed the feature, saying it had improved their experience.

“The intent, or the hope, was to depressurise Instagram a little bit,” he said.

“To allow them (users) to focus more on connecting with friends or being inspired rather than how many likes they or other people get.

“I think the more we can give people the ability to shape Instagram and Facebook into what’s good for them, the better.

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‘Give people a choice’

“The spirit of this is to give people a choice. We wanted to make sure that you could go back and forth because actually, I think that might be a way that a lot of people use it – maybe you are a teen and you’re having a difficult time going through a break-up or you just switched schools and maybe you want to be a little less worried about how many likes everyone is getting for a couple of weeks.”

Instagram has launched a number of new features in recent months, including restricting access to certain parts of your content to certain accounts - in a bid to tackle online bullying.

However, Mosseri said while the platform takes a non-nonsense approach to harmful content, it is impossible to eradicate it all together.

“Bad things happen on Instagram, we know this. With a billion people, you’re going to get the good, the bad and the ugly of humanity, and I’m sure for some people using Instagram it’s not helpful and can be problematic in all sorts of ways,” he said.

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Mosseri added: “So it’s our responsibility to magnify the good and reduce the bad as much as we can.”

UK to tighten social media regulations

In the UK, social media platforms will soon face further scrutiny and restrictions as the government plan to implement the Online Safety Bill.

The first draft of the bill was published this month, with proposals to block sites and impose large fines when platforms fail to stop the spread of harmful content on their services.

Instagram has also faced backlash since unfinished plans to launch a child-friendly Instagram were leaked, with concerns for children’s safety online raised.

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Mosseri said the idea had “leaked early” and the firm did not have a “fully fledged, fleshed-out plan yet”, but that the proposal around a platform for under 13s was to be more responsible by creating a space for kids to interact with their friends that could be overseen by parents without them having to lie about their age in order to access it.

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