‘I hate the paranoia that comes with whether I’ve had loads of likes on Instagram or not, it invalidates what I post and takes the fun out of it. I would’ve loved to be able to do this years ago.’
Charley is one of many people who, today, has chosen to take full advantage of Instagram’s latest feature: the option to ‘hide’ the amount of likes you get on a picture. After testing the feature over the last year or so, Instagram is officially offering users a choice – you can hide likes on everyone else's posts in your feed, and your own on individual posts.
‘We tested hiding like counts to see if it might depressurize people’s experience on Instagram,’ the social media giant wrote on their website. ‘What we heard from people and experts was that not seeing like counts was beneficial for some, and annoying to others, particularly because people use like counts to get a sense for what’s trending or popular, so we’re giving you the choice.’
So, how do you hide likes on Instagram?
Since there are a couple of options, there’s different ways to hide your likes depending on how far you want to go. Once you have posted picture or video, you can choose to hide likes on that individually by clicking the three vertical dots next to the post and choosing ‘Hide Like Count’.
Underneath the post will then simply appear as ‘Liked by [X] and others’ rather than ‘Liked by [X] and 190 others’. You can unhide your like count if you change your mind, and you’ll still be able to see how many likes you got through the ‘Insights’ option on posts – just no one else will.
If you wish to hide likes on other people’s posts, go to Settings, Posts and you’ll see an option to ‘Hide Like and View Counts’ that can be turned on or off. You then won’t see the total number of likes or views on posts from other accounts, but you’ll still have to turn your own likes off each post individually if you wish to do so.
The big question really though is, will anyone actually do it?
On the surface, hiding likes seems like a great idea. There has been countless research into how our like counts impact self-esteem, the general consensus being that social comparison has an undeniable impact on it, particularly for young people. Given that the majority of people can’t post a picture online without editing it first, according to research by Case24, that’s perhaps not surprising.
But since you can still see your own likes, will knowing other people can’t see them have a big enough impact on its own? More importantly, will people be able to admit they care enough about likes to turn them off in the first place?
That’s the question avid Instagram user Jasmine* has been asking herself since the new feature was announced and she began to decide whether she would take the plunge.
I felt embarrassed to hide mine because it's like admitting you care how many likes you get.
‘I still haven’t decided if I’ll do it,’ Jasmine tells Grazia. ‘I considered hiding mine when I first saw the option, but then I felt weirdly embarrassed! It’s almost like admitting you really care about how many likes you get, and I think that’s what a lot of people will struggle with since we’re meant to be the generation that doesn’t care about anything.
‘We’re all meant to be so confident, not value ourselves based on social media, that’s like a badge of honour now,’ she continues. ‘So, turning them off feels like admitting defeat. It’s ironic, because now not turning them off is also admitting you care whether people think you’re cool enough to leave them up regardless, your kind of damned if you do, damned if you don’t… the precedent has already been set, it will take a lot of time for that damage to be undone.’
For others though, the choice was clear.
‘I hid mine immediately and feel fabulous,’ says writer Rose Stokes. ‘I think this is going to be awesome for my mental health and will help people who struggle with the comparison demon, I’m all for it!’
‘I founded Social Media Kindness Day in memory of Caroline Flack and I hugely welcome this move,’ adds celebrity manager Mayah Riaz. ‘So many people measure themselves with the vanity metric of likes. I’m glad to be able to remove this, it is a kind move from Instagram. I imagine it will also help massively with a lot of people’s mental health too and putting less pressure on themselves.’
On the other side of the spectrum, many readers we spoke to were also adamant they wouldn’t be turning them off.
‘I absolutely won't be hiding them,’ says comedian and broadcaster Suchandrika Chakrabarti. ‘I don't attach emotional value to likes, I use them more as a report on how my content is working. Although I guess my Instagram persona is at a remove from my actual self, which makes this possible.’
‘I won’t be hiding my likes, it’s not something that I have ever compared or equated my self-esteem to,’ agrees life coach Michelle Elman, who has near 200,000 followers. ‘I understand the purpose of this option is to minimise comparison and I agree that does happen on the app but I think it’s much more seeing other people’s lives via Instagram stories and “only posting the good” than a number. As an influencer especially, I know the number of likes depends on so much from time of posting to algorithm that I guess I view the number differently.’
It seems then, that the choice is a lot more dependent on your experience of Instagram than one might think. It’s not a one size fits all, ‘LIKES ARE AWFUL FOR EVERYONE’ conversation, it’s a lot to do with your own mental health journey, career and of course, age. Of the generation-z we spoke to, for example, there was zero shame in admitting that likes are important to them – as are others seeing them.
How am I going to stalk all my exes and see whose liking their pictures?
‘I can fully admit I’m attention-seeking on Instagram,’ Charlotte, a 22-year-old Instagram fan told us. ‘I love the ego boost I get from posting something that gets loads of likes, and certain people being able to see exactly who liked it, if you know what I mean.’
That social media stalking element also came into others answers. ‘The first thing I thought was, if I can’t see anyone else’s likes, there goes my social media surveillance,’ says Hannah*. ‘How am I going to stalk all my exes and see whose liking their pictures?’
It’s clear then that for some people, the choice to hide likes is a lot deeper than others. It depends on what you use social media for, and likely how ready you are to address it’s hold over your self-esteem or, conversely, the work you’ve done personally to ensure it doesn’t have one.
One thing is for sure, Instagram giving users the choice was the right option – who knows the boycotts the exes of social media might have put on had they been forced not to stalk…
*names have been changed