Facebook and Instagram will allow users to opt out of showing or seeing the amount of likes on posts, Facebook announced Wednesday.
In a press release titled “Giving People More Control on Instagram and Facebook,” the company wrote, “You may have noticed that we’ve been testing hiding like counts on Instagram for a while. Today, we’re announcing that everyone on Instagram and Facebook will now have the option to hide their public like counts, so they can decide what works for them.”
The release went on, “We tested hiding like counts to see if it might depressurize people’s experience on Instagram. What we heard from people and experts was that not seeing like counts was beneficial for some and annoying to others, particularly because people use like counts to get a sense of what’s trending or popular, so we’re giving you the choice.”
“This idea actually came from the team,” Instagram head Adam Mosseri said in a Wednesday “Good Morning America” appearance to discuss the announcement. “The idea was to try to depressurize Instagram a little bit, to allow people to be able to focus more on the people that they care about and being inspired and worry a little bit less about how many likes they or other people are getting.”
The move has been a long time in the making. Instagram has experimented with hiding likes in the past. The popular pictures-and-videos app, which has more than 1 billion users worldwide, first tested hiding likes in 2019. In April of this year, Facebook gave some users the option to turn them off completely — on their own posts and friends’ posts — but did not extend the option broadly.
As TheWrap previously reported, the move could have a substantial impact on the routines and mental health of Instagram’s users. That’s because there’s growing evidence to suggest overexposure to likes may not be good for the human brain.
“The brain responds to likes like any other reward or thing that excites the brain like food, sex or gambling,” said Ofir Turel, a professor at Cal State University, Fullerton and researcher at the University of Southern California. “When you get likes, the reward system lights up and releases dopamine, making us feel good.”
That good feeling can become fleeting, though, as users get hooked on checking their phones for social validation after posting a picture or video. Turel, who has studied the impact of social media on the brain for more than a decade, said users habitually check their phones — including 40% of Americans while driving — because Instagram and other platforms have created a “variable reward,” something best associated with betting in a casino.
On Wednesday, Facebook announced that likes on users’ own posts and friends’ posts can be toggled off. A new “Posts” options in the Settings menu gives each user the customizable options. Like and view counts can also be toggled off before a post is even uploaded.