Why Instagram Hiding ‘Likes’ Could Be Good for Users – and the Bottom Line

Likes impact the brain in the same way sex and gambling do — and can lead to compulsive phone checking — one expert tells TheWrap

Instagram is testing whether to hide “likes” on posts — a potential move that, if adopted across the entire platform, could have a substantial impact on the routines and mental health of its 1 billion 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.

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Sean Burch

Just a kid from the streets of Orange County, writing about tech