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Instagram Is Testing Hiding Number Of Likes On Posts In 7 Countries


Instagram users in several countries can no longer see the number of likes on a post - Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram, said the decision was made because, quote, "we want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they're getting on Instagram, spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about." This comes, of course, after studies have shown the effect that social media may have on the mental health of many who use it.

Kumi Taguchi joins us. She hosts the weekly "Compass" news program on Australia's ABC. Kumi, thanks so much for being with us.

KUMI TAGUCHI: So great to talk to you, Scott.

SIMON: Just a test, we gather, but do you think it's a good one?

TAGUCHI: I feel like it's a great test in terms of the likes and people only posting content because they want to see how many likes it gets. You know, I've had friends who've sort of admitted that they've gone through their Instagram feeds and deleted photos that didn't get a number of likes and sort of reposted things in order to sort of try and boost that scale.

The commentary here's been interesting, though, Scott, because Australians are known to be a bit skeptical. So there's been quite a few academics and social commentators here saying that, you know, Instagram isn't necessarily only doing this because of sort of the sense of mental health and care for its users, but there's got to be some strategic or, you know, financial basis behind their decision, which I suspect might be true as well.

SIMON: Why would Instagram do this in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand and not the United States?

TAGUCHI: I've wondered about that. The states, obviously, I would say would be one of the highest users of Instagram and potentially one of the - you know, you have so many celebrities and people who are making money from their mass followings, whereas I wonder whether Australia and New Zealand and Brazil and Japan have got markets that have a good saturation of use but not enough to totally upset the economic relationship between influencers and products that they're promoting. That's my feeling.

SIMON: Kumi, may I ask, you are in a position to judge the reaction of at least young Australians in your own family, aren't you?

TAGUCHI: I'm in a position to see the effect on, particularly, people in my media sort of circles, I guess, who have quite high profiles and quite high number of followers. A lot of those people have treated it with a bit of humor.

But the other really interesting thing I've noticed here - so there's been a kind of backlash against that influencer culture where there's been a bit of a schadenfreude thing going on that's sort of like, oh, you know, so-and-so lost 1,200 followers in the last two days because the Instagram change, but, hey, she was getting a little bit too big for her boots anyway. So I think a lot of people are quite enjoying seeing a lot of these quick-made celebrities now no longer have a follower likes sort of count on their feed.

SIMON: How has this new policy changed how you share things - content?

TAGUCHI: It has shifted a little bit in the way I look at things. But I think when you're sharing that personal, close-family stuff which has come from a really good-hearted place, I don't think it will shift or change how people engage with that content because, essentially, you're just wanting to see families doing their thing or kids going well at the speech night (ph) or a nice book that you're reading on a holiday. I think that's essentially what Instagram is trying to get back to is a kind of more natural, neutral sharing that comes from a different place.

SIMON: Kumi Taguchi is a host at the ABC in Australia. Thanks so much for being with us.

TAGUCHI: Great to talk to you, Scott. Have a great weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.