Instagram and Facebook Test Option for Hiding ‘Likes’ (Again)

Sean Burch
·3-min read

Instagram on Wednesday started a new test allowing some users to turn off seeing “likes” — a test Facebook, its parent company, will also soon be trying out.

A rep for Instagram confirmed to TheWrap on Wednesday morning some users will now be given two options for hiding likes. The first option will let users turn off seeing likes on other users’ posts, and the second option will allow users to turn off seeing likes on their own posts. The Instagram rep added it will be a “small global test” for now, and that not all users will be given the chance to hide likes for the time being.

Tech Crunch, the first outlet to report this story, said Facebook will roll out a similar test “in the weeks ahead,” per a Facebook rep.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because 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.

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As TheWrap previously reported, the test, if adopted on a wide scale, 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.

“This is exactly what you have in gambling,” Turel said. “When you play the slot machines, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But you don’t know the schedule. It’s a gamble. Same thing with likes. You post a picture, it’s a gamble. You don’t know if 5 people are going to like it, 100 people are going to like it, or 1 million are going to like it.”

The mystery of whether a post will be well-received or not — just like hoping a pull of the slot machine will pay off — keeps users glued to their phones. Instagram users spend an average of 53 minutes per day on the app.

Instagram did not share how many users will be part of its latest test or how long it will last.

Read original story Instagram and Facebook Test Option for Hiding ‘Likes’ (Again) At TheWrap