A Psychiatrist Shares Why It's Good For Instagram To Hide 'Likes'

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.

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In an effort to reduce social media's harm on our mental health, Instagram has issued a test this week that will remove the number of "likes" visible on posts for a select amount of users in the United States. While you'll still be able to see who likes your photos, the exact number will be hidden on the newsfeed—a change that could revolutionize what it means to truly seek your own validation. 

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri announced this new plan at a conference in San Francisco sponsored by Wired, called Wired25. He hopes the change will "depressurize" Instagram and reduce social comparisons, especially for young, impressionable users.

In light of this change, we reached out to mbg Collective member and board-certified holistic psychiatrist Ellen Vora, M.D., to see what she thinks of Instagram's move. "When we change our behavior to get validation from others, we're on a path toward unworthiness, disconnection from ourselves, and unhappiness," she says.

That said, when we post photos that garner the most "likes" rather than what actually makes us happy, we'll feel more disconnected from ourselves and our own sense of worthiness. 

Instagram users have expressed their frustrations—and borderline panic—with the new update. On Twitter, users argue that it's a bad marketing strategy, but Mosseri feels that users' mental health is more important than any marketing strategy or revenue stream from influencers. 

"We're going to put a 15-year-old kid's interests before a public speaker's interest," Mosseri said in a conversation with Tracee Ellis Ross at Wired25. "When we look at the world of public content, we're going to put people in that world before organizations and corporations."

"I think [liking photos] has adverse effects. It creates a culture that isn't helpful for well-being and isn't fruitful for creative energy," Ross says.

While this test would be the first to affect U.S. users, Mosseri notes that "likes" have already been hidden in other countries since April, including Canada, Japan, and Brazil. And they seem to be doing just fine sans "likes."

Vora also believes that people will start to see the benefits of social media without the metrics—it'll just take time. Although users might feel a void where their dopamine rush used to be, she thinks we'll ultimately have the power to take back our sense of worthiness. "People will find Instagram to be just a little bit less reinforcing, a little bit less addictive," she tells me. "It'll shape our behavior to please others slightly less." 

With this news, along with Instagram banning plastic-surgery-like filters back in October, it seems as if the company is starting to realize the power they have in influencing young users' mental health. As far as where mbg stands, we're always on board with new ways to combat anxiety and social pressure. Long story short, we'd "like" the idea if we could.

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