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Instagram to start hiding 'like' counts in US this week

Instagram's CEO says the experiment is aimed at taking the pressure off users -- particularly young people -- to get as much engagement as possible.

If you are a frequent user of Instagram and you start seeing that someone you follow is not getting any likes on their photos or videos this week, don't panic. It's part of an experiment Instagram is performing to see the effects on users and the platform.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri calls it private like counts. Users who post content will be able to see how many likes they get, but no one else will see the like count.

The idea is to remove the anxiety and validation some Instagram users feel about the amount of engagement their pages and content receives.

"It's about young people. The idea is about trying to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them," Mosseri told WIRED25 last week.

"We're trying to reduce anxiety. We're trying to reduce social comparisons. These are issues that are becoming more acute, particularly with young people, particularly in a mobile-first world," Mosseri also said.

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Instagram has already been testing this in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand, according to WIRED.

WIRED reports there has been some pushback on the idea from users. Among the complaints about hiding engagement metrics is that it will make it harder to figure out if a follower count is legitimate or fake.

What happens if removing public likes comes at a hit to Instagram's business?

"We will make decisions that hurt the business if they're good for people's well-being and health because it has to be good for the business over the long run," Mosseri said.

"Bravo!" said actor Tracee Ellis Ross, who was part of the panel when Mosseri made the announcement. "Because that's not the norm."

Mosseri went on to clarify that "well-being" has multiple definitions, and he wanted to be careful with the expectations.

"We don't know that this is going to be good for people's medical well-being. But that is spiritually what we're trying to do," Mosseri said.

Mosseri said he hopes this move puts pressure on other platforms. He said Facebook has been testing private likes as well.