How Instagram Hiding Likes Affects Your Mental Health
Every post on Instagram has a “like” button beneath it.
It may seem like a quick and quantitative way to gauge a community’s response to posts. However, while a highly upvoted or liked post represents positive community feedback, the lack of “likes” doesn’t necessarily indicate “dislikes.” Having fewer “likes” than other posts doesn’t inherently mean that your post is “less likable” or that you are less likable.
In an effort to reduce this focus on “likes,” Instagram may hide “likes” on posts. It is already testing an interface without “likes” in 7 countries. If Instagram moves forward with the change, you’ll be able to see how many people liked your posts, but no one else will.
Hiding “likes” may seem like a small change, but it’s designed to help users improve their mental health by reducing the pressure and competition for “likes.” Social media platforms and mental health experts alike are growing increasingly concerned with the way metrics like likes, shares, and follower counts affect users’ mental health.
Instagram is the social media platform that is the most detrimental to young people’s wellbeing, according to an RSPH survey. It can increase feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness; harm users’ body image; and trigger “fear of missing out” (FOMO).
The potential of removing “likes” has many users hopeful, including us. However, if using Instagram sometimes makes you feel stressed, anxious, depressed, or unwell, there are other steps you can take now to improve your mental health while using the platform:
There are several physical filters you can use to make your Instagram posts look better. However, there is also a metaphorical filter: the filter of what users decide to post on the platform. Influencers and friends alike highly curate photos of their vacations, food, and lives. It can feel like everyone is having a great time except for the person looking at these photos on Instagram.
It’s important to keep in mind that the reality behind the images may be more complicated. Many people only post positive events on social media. You are only seeing who they want to be and who they want others to see them as. They also have moments when they feel sad, afraid, or insecure; they just don’t show them.
It may be helpful to look at your own Instagram feed. How many times have you posted a happy update or carefree photo when you were stressed, sad, tired, or anxious? Do you post only happy/positive photos on days where you feel more complicated emotions? If so, you’re not alone! The majority of people are sharing mainly positive content, even though their reality is more complicated too.
2. Take A Break
If you find yourself more anxious or depressed after using Instagram than you were before scrolling, take a break! You can take a day, a week, or a month off; whatever feels like it would be most helpful.
A break can help you reset your relationship with the platform. You may come back more aware of which accounts you enjoy following and which accounts make you stressed or anxious, or you may find that you enjoy spending a shorter time on the app. A break can help you take a step back and figure out how to use Instagram in a way that’s more beneficial for you.
If you can’t imagine going a day or a week without Instagram, then you can try. . .
3. Limit Time on Instagram
You can get many of the same benefits of taking a break from Instagram by limiting your time on the app. You could give yourself 15-30 minutes a day to browse the site or decide only to access the site at specific times.
4. Choose Affirmative Communities
The people and communities you follow define your experience with social media platforms. Think about who you follow on Instagram and unfollow any person or account that triggers you or negatively affects your mental health.
It’s also helpful to think about which social media platforms have communities that support and affirm you. Is Instagram serving you well, or do you feel more like part of a community when you’re on Reddit, Youtube, Facebook, or Twitter? Limiting your presence on social media sites that don’t give you a sense of belonging gives you more time in the communities that fit you best.
As people curate their Instagram profiles to show the world who they want to be, you can curate your feed to show you what you want to see.
5. Spend Time with Friends
While social media can increase feelings of isolation, spending time with friends “IRL” is one of the healthiest things you can do to offset them. Make sure you’re making time to catch up with your friends. Human interactions provide context: you can hear your friend’s tone of voice and see their facial expressions. You talk about the positive and the negative events in your lives. It’s a more organic way of interacting with people.
6. Engage in Therapy
Therapy can help you reduce the feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and FOMO that Instagram can trigger. Having a regular, safe space where you can authentically be yourself reduces the feeling of always needing to be "on" or to filter your experiences.
Oftentimes, social media doesn’t cause mental health issues; it exacerbates them. Getting help to manage any underlying conditions you have can help you have a better experience in every part of your life.
(Shameless plug: we can help you! If you need help finding a therapist and you’re based in NYC, we can match you with a provider. Simply fill out this questionnaire to get started. If you’re not based in NYC, you can ask us to reach out when we arrive in your city.)
Instagram can help you keep up-to-date with your friends and connect with a larger community. It’s important to use it mindfully to make sure you’re enjoying its benefits while avoiding its less-than-positive effects.
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About the author: Mariah is My Wellbeing’s new Head of Growth. She is passionate about expanding access to therapy after benefiting from counseling herself. Since serving as a residential mentor in college, she’s advised friends on managing stress and accessing mental health care. As a social media enthusiast and professional, Mariah has seen the advantages and the dark sides of different platforms. She’s always happy to share tips on how to enjoy social media while limiting its impact on your mental health.