All of Instagram’s half a billion users around the world may soon see a major shake-up on the app, with the ‘likes’ of others hidden from view.
A trial in seven countries around the world kicked off last night which is designed to remove the anxiety attached to posting caused by the risk of not getting many likes.
The trial in Canada, Japan, Ireland, Italy, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand means users who upload a photo will still be able to see how many likes they get – but no-one else will know.
Users can still like other people’s photos – they just can’t see how many likes the photo has got.
Previous trials and their progression to widespread roll-out have been a mixed bag, with some features such as direct messaging and the non-chronological feed proving popular and being enabled in the rest of the world.
Others however, have seen less success, such as the payments feature and its controversial naked image scanner to prevent revenge porn, being cancelled.
Instagram has yet to comment on a release date for the US and the UK but previous timelines suggest it may be available in the two markets, some of its most lucrative, within a matter of months.
The trial in Canada, Japan, Ireland, Italy, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand means users who upload a photo will still be able to see how many likes they get – but no-one else will know
Users can still like other people’s photos – they just can’t see how many likes the photo has got. Pictured is an example screen grab posted by Instagram to its official account
The changes that came in within trial regions are compulsory for all account holders.
Instagram Australia’s Director of Policy Mia Garlick said: ‘We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.
‘We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love.
‘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.’
Mr Garlick said the new method was being tried temporarily and Instagram would respond to feedback.
He said the end of likes does not mean the end of influencers – because brands and businesses can still see how many views and likes they get.
An Instagram spokesman said: ‘For businesses and creators on Instagram, this test will not affect measurement tools like Insights or Ads Manager’.
Instagram announced the feature on Twitter (pictured) and said it wants to see the platform become more about focusing on the content and not the attention it draws
Social media reaction has been largely positive to the latest feature wit many wondering if and when it will be introduced to other markets, including the US and the UK
The changes that came in within trial regions are compulsory for all account holders but some Australian users were already a big fan of the like withdrawal
Many users were less than impressed with the new idea from the Facebook-owned firm and posed the age-old question of when the chronological timeline would be reintroduced
Chronological order timeline has taken on an almost cult-like appeal to the users of Instagram and an initial resistance to the new feature may ease with time
The end of likes does not mean the end of influencers like Emily Skye (left) and Tammy Hembrow (right) – because brands and businesses can still see how many views and likes they get
An Instagram spokesman said: ‘For businesses and creators on Instagram, this test will not affect measurement tools like Insights or Ads Manager’. Pictured: Pia Muehlenbeck
Jem Wolfie, an Australia-based influencer with 2.7 million Instagram followers has expressed concerns about the trial.
‘It’s something they do for the larger accounts,’ she told Hack.
‘They said they’re doing it to take the competition out of posting – I’m not in competition with anyone on Instagram, I’m here to run a business.
‘They’re taking a tool away that’s really important for us.’
Jamey-Lee Franz, another influencer on the app, also told Hack that it may stop people becoming influencers to start with.
‘It’s going to be really hard for anyone who’s starting their account from zero or from a small following,’ he said.
‘For brands, they’re not going to be able to easily see that this person has this many likes and this much engagement.
‘There’ll be no base to work with upcoming influencers.
New Zealand travel reporter Brook Sabin told Stuff the new rules would create a ‘behind the scenes’ rat race.
‘This is still a popularity contest, it’s just now going to be fought behind the scenes,’ he said.
‘Likes are still a vital part of the game’.
‘Companies generally request analytics from an influencer to get an idea of how their posts go – and presumably – these analytics will be updated to include the like count.’
It comes after studies have shown that social media use can exacerbate mental health issues like depression, suicidal thoughts and psychological distress, according to the American Psychological Association.
In addition, studies have shown that increased time spent on social media can lead to feelings of loneliness, social anxiety and social isolation.
HOW CAN SOCIAL MEDIA HARM USERS’ HEALTH?
Twitter isn’t the first social media giant to look into how its platform affects users’ health.
Facebook admitted in December that the site could be damaging to people’s health if used the wrong way.
The company recommended that people use Facebook in an active, rather than passive, way, by communicating with friends, instead of just scrolling through their feed.
Facebook said it consulted with social psychologists, social scientists and sociologists to determine that the site can be good for users’ well-being if used the right way
By interacting with people when you use Facebook, it can improve your well-being, according to the company.
The report came after a former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya said Facebook ‘destroyed how society works’.
Facebook went on to say that while there were some downsides to social media, that by and large it has the potential for benefits if it’s used correctly.
In January, Facebook also acknowledged that social media can harm democracy.