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Should Instagram Get Rid of Likes?

The number of people who like your posts can lift your spirits—or drag them down. Could eliminating likes help end that emotional roller coaster?

After sorting through dozens of selfies, you pick just the right one and post it on Instagram. When you check back a few minutes later, you’re excited to see that it already has 11 likes.

But then you notice that a selfie your friend just posted already has 50 likes. You know you shouldn’t compare yourself with your classmate, but you can’t help it. You start to wonder whether your photos would get more likes if you were to change your hair or wear different clothes.

Instagram is hugely popular, especially among teens. For many users, seeing what other people are posting—and liking their pictures—is a pleasure. But for other users, the constant pressure to get a ton of likes can hurt their self-confidence or make them feel anxious and depressed.

That is a big reason officials at Instagram are considering hiding like counts (the number of likes an image receives) from public view. Only the person who posts an image would be able to see how many likes it gets. The company is currently testing this format with some users worldwide.

“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,” says Mia Garlick, a company executive.

But would hiding like counts—or dropping them altogether—really help users feel better about themselves? Teens are divided over the issue.

SOURCES: Instagram Info Center, Pew Research Center, SimilarWeb

Too Stressful

Supporters of getting rid of likes say that for too many Instagram users, the pursuit of likes is their sole motivation for posting. For some kids, that has made using the app incredibly stressful. Instead of thinking “Hey, I like this pic. I think I’ll share it,” they wonder “How many likes will this get?” That kind of focus on validation from others can be especially damaging for young people, experts say.

Claire Blose, 18, of Middletown, New Jersey, can relate. “I enjoy posting photos on Instagram,” she says. “But being so preoccupied with getting likes can’t be good for my mental health.”

Not getting enough likes can hurt teens’ confidence and self-esteem.

Studies have linked heavy use of social media—especially Instagram and Snapchat—to depression, anxiety, loneliness, and other mental health issues among teens. People who applaud ditching likes say doing so would help get Instagram back to what it should be—a way to connect with family and friends—instead of a nonstop popularity contest.

If Instagram were to get rid of likes, says Claire, “People might post photos that are meaningful to them, instead of only posting photos they think will get the widest approval.”

Show of Support

But other people point out that likes can be a great way to promote positivity and to show friends that you support them.

Besides, they say, many people are on Instagram to express their creative side—and get noticed. “The platform is great for showcasing artistic skills like photography or singing,” says Remy Crush, 15, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Having a high like count on your posts can help your creative work get noticed—and even lead to an audition, a gallery exhibit, or a job offer.

Likes are a great way to connect with friends and encourage each other’s creativity.

If Instagram really wants to help prevent hurt feelings and low self-esteem, some people say, why not get rid of the comments section? Snarky or cruel remarks about something you cared about enough to post can be far more painful than getting too few likes.

“Maybe we should start by fixing an aspect of the app that’s truly detrimental,” says Remy, “rather than getting rid of a feature many users actually like.”

Think About It

Should Instagram get rid of likes? Consider why you post certain pictures—and how you feel when you don’t get as many likes as your friends. Then ask yourself: Could getting rid of like counts help make Instagram healthier for users? Or would other changes make a bigger difference?

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