Instagram is giving all users the option to hide like counts from posts in an effort to “depressurise” the experience of using the platform.
From Wednesday, all Instagram and Facebook users will start to have the choice to hide both the like counts of other people’s posts that appear in their feed, as well as the count on their own posts.
Concerns have previously been raised about the impact of social media platforms on mental health, particularly among younger people, with some equating the number of likes on a post to popularity or a sign of validation.
Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said that because the platform was used in different ways by different people, the best option was to give everyone a choice as to whether they wanted to see like counts.
He revealed that during testing some influencers and content creators had expressed concerns at losing like counts because they used the figures to understand what was trending and popular on the site, but that many others welcomed the feature, saying it had improved their experience.
“The intent, or the hope, was to depressurise Instagram a little bit,” he said.
“To allow them (users) to focus more on connecting with friends or being inspired rather than how many likes they or other people get.
“I think the more we can give people the ability to shape Instagram and Facebook into what’s good for them, the better.
“The spirit of this is to give people a choice. We wanted to make sure that you could go back and forth because actually, I think that might be a way that a lot of people use it – maybe you are a teen and you’re having a difficult time going through a break-up or you just switched schools and maybe you want to be a little less worried about how many likes everyone is getting for a couple of weeks.”
This update is the latest in a number of safety-related changes Instagram has made in recent months, including enabling users to restrict the access certain accounts have to their profile to combat online bullying, as well as allowing users to block comments if they feature certain words.
Mr Mosseri acknowledged that it was impossible to prevent all harmful incidents from occurring on Instagram because of the sheer number of users, but that was constantly working to protect people.
“Bad things happen on Instagram, we know this,” he said.
“With a billion people, you’re going to get the good, the bad and the ugly of humanity, and I’m sure for some people using Instagram it’s not helpful and can be problematic in all sorts of ways.
“So it’s our responsibility to magnify the good and reduce the bad as much as we can.”
Social media platforms are preparing to face increased regulation in the UK, with the Government having published its draft Online Safety Bill earlier this month.
Under the proposals, platforms could face large fines or their sites being blocked if they fail to stop the spread of harmful content on their services.
During a briefing with reporters, the Instagram boss also responded to reports about a controversial spin-off version of the app for children, supposedly set to be called Instagram for Kids.
He said the idea had “leaked early” and the firm did not have a “fully fledged, fleshed-out plan yet”, but that the proposal around a platform for under 13s was to be more responsible by creating a space for kids to interact with their friends that could be overseen by parents without them having to lie about their age in order to access it.