On Friday, Instagram announced the completion of a two-year study beginning in April 2019, where it hid the “Like” count on users’ feeds to determine whether this affected their mental health. The participants could still see how many “Likes” their own posts received, but the count was hidden from everyone else. “The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition,” Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said when talking about the study. He emphasized that it was focused specifically on improving the experience for young people on the app.
Users can decide if they see “Likes.”
So now, after over two years of testing, Instagram has concluded that the reaction to the removal of “Like” counts was, in the words of Mosseri, “pretty polarizing.” While some participants did find it beneficial, others noted that hiding the counts reduced their ability to gauge what topics are popular, reducing the effectiveness of their posts. As a result, the company has decided that the “Likes” will remain, but users will now have an option to remove them if they wish.
That was anticlimactic.
The results of this study may seem fairly anticlimactic, given the current criticism that social media companies are receiving for the negative effect that their platforms are having on the mental health of young people. But a growing number of studies, including one lasting over 30 years from Oxford University, find there is only limited evidence linking the use of social networks to changes in mental health.
Should users be able to customize their experience?
All in all, perhaps the largest implication of this study was the fact that it highlighted the need for social media companies to allow users to customize their experiences. Applying a one-size-fits-all approach may alienate a significant portion of its user base.
Do you think social media affects your mental health? Are you keeping your “Like” count? Let us know.