By Lauren Rearick
Showing your Instagram affection through a double-tap could soon be a thing of the past.
In recent weeks, Instagram has been testing out a version of its app that hid a photo’s total number of likes, CNNreports. Users were still be able to view their own likes and statistics on any photos they had posted, but those numbers were kept private when viewing photos posted by friends, celebrities, or anyone else on the platform. The altered Insta experience debuted in Canada at the beginning of May, and users were notified of the change through a message displayed within Instagram, according to HuffPost.
The move comes following continued criticism about Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, for the impact the services have on users's daily lives. Of the shift, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said on April 30 that the company believes "The future is private," and will be rolling out changes throughout its platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, told Buzzfeed News the change was about “creating a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.” He said that users have expressed concern that they aren’t getting enough likes.
Although Instagram likes aren’t the only measure of success in the world, social media platforms remain frequent subjects of focus for professionals exploring potential negative impacts on mental health. Studies, including one conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and another from UK's Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement found that Instagram usage can have a detrimental affect on one’s mental health.
Users that limited their time on the platform reported feeling less depressed and lonely, the University of Pennsylvania discovered. Additionally, the platform’s “image-focused” feed led to feelings of “inadequacy and anxiety” among the 1,500 teens surveyed for the UK's Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement’s study. (Some Instagram users do operate their online presence as a means of encouraging others, but their effect on a user’s overall platform experience is harder to quantify.)
Social media usage will not necessarily have a negative impact on all users, Ana Radovic, MD, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, told MTV News. However, those predisposed to feelings of low self-esteem may find that Instagram likes do serve as “another currency of self-comparison,” and by hiding these likes, people are essentially able to “filter out the negative and enhance the positive.”
“If they don't receive likes, they have nothing to fall back on in terms of their own feelings of self-worth,” she said. “Specifically when someone has high concerns about their body image, then the social comparison deals with appearance and may cause them to feel more negatively about their body image.”
Ultimately, Dr. Radovic suggests remaining mindful of how you’re using social media, and how much time you’re spending on those platforms. If you do begin to notice that certain applications are having a negative impact on your self-esteem or mental health, she suggests talking about that with your healthcare provider.
“Keep an emotional pulse,” she said. “Think about how you are feeling when you are using social media. Think about what you did, and why did it make you feel better or worse.” She also suggests opening a new account where you only follow uplifting posters or consider unfollowing accounts that make you feel worse.
For now, those on Instagram, including Kylie Jenner and her record-breaking egg rival, don’t have to worry about any of their likes disappearing. Mosseri didn’t confirm that private likes would one day roll out to everyone, but he did tell Buzzfeed News that it wasn’t “off the table.”