Psychologists give "thumbs up" to Instagram changes


A mental health expert has praised Instagram’s decision to trial the removal of the tally of ‘likes’ on posts, following a major shake up to the way users engage on the platform.

Instagram has temporarily taken away ‘like’ tallies from photos and videos in Australian feeds, which is a move that Bupa’s psychological health and safety leader, Chanel Nesci hopes will improve people’s mental health.

“Humans are by nature, social beings and we are wired to need to belong and be accepted by others, and in some ways, social media ‘likes’ reinforce this need,” Ms Nesci said.

“We all have an ideal version of ourselves which is more than likely who we usually promote on our social media platforms.

"This can sometimes create a false sense of perfection when perceiving the lives of others, and can make some people, especially young people, feel inadequate," she said.


For many people, the gratification received through social media attention can be an esteem booster, which can be an effective form of connecting with others, however it should not be our only way of meeting this need.
Chanel Nesci, Bupa Psychological Health and Safety Leader and registered Psychologist

The recent #StatusOfMind study published by the UK Royal Society for Public Health found Instagram to be the most detrimental social media platform for young people's mental health and interaction commonly linked to anxiety, depression and a fear of missing out.

2018 survey of teens in the United States by the Pew Research Centre found that 37 per cent felt pressured to only share digital content that had accumulated a lot of likes or comments.

“I hope that this move will mean people will focus less on ‘likes’ as a way of increasing self esteem and personal validation, and more so on sharing and enjoying experiences with their friends and family to establish and maintain relationships and genuine connection,” she said.

Australia, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Brazil and New Zealand are all involved in the new trial, which follows an initial test that was launched in Canada earlier this year.

Although Instagram described the hiding of the likes for users as a "test", no deadline was given for when it would end.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, has listened to research and responded accordingly with the director of policy for ANZ, Mia Garlick telling the BBC it made the change in an effort to improve users' wellbeing, and to create a safe space.

"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," she said.

The test would indicate whether users could "focus less on likes and more on telling their story".

So what exactly has changed?

The way accumulated likes are displayed has had a revamp. Instead of a post showing up "Liked by [name] and 9 others", you'll now just see "...and others", with no count.

The number of total likes will no longer be visible to you or your followers when scrolling through your feed. You can click on "others" to see the like count on your own photos, but your followers will not be able to see how many likes your post has received. Likewise, you will not be able to see how many likes other people’s posts have received.

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