The Real Reason Instagram's Next Update Will Hide Likes

Here's a hint: it has nothing to do with our mental health.
In 2019, Instagram announced its intention to remove visible 'likes' from the platform. For 7 countries, including Australia, Japan, Brazil, and Canada, that plan has already become a reality. As for the United States and other markets, it's only a matter of time. 
Instagram CEO Adam Moserri hinted that the update aims to improve users' mental health. In an interview with Wired, he highlighted the company's altruistic motives, saying, "We will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people's well-being and health." Moserri also claimed the decision was an important move in Instagram's quest to become "the safest place on the internet." 
Over the next few months, Instagram continued to tout the removal of 'likes' as a mental health measure executed on behalf of public wellbeing. In response, Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds flooded with outpourings of praise. Many declared it the end to an era of insecurity; others labeled it a major win for mental health. Even renowned outlets like BBC, The Huffington Post, PBS, Insider, and TIME churned out headlines applauding Instagram's selfless gesture, speculating how the change might impact lives for the better.  
But is this a mental health win, or something else entirely? Despite Facebook, Inc's murky history of prioritizing monetary gain over user privacy and even national security, no one seemed to really question the company's motives.
But let's be real: social media platforms have always relied on the blatant abuse of our brains' chemical reward systems to draw clicks in the name of capital gain. Facebook's own ex-president Sean Parker stated during an Axios event that the website's founders knowingly and intentionally designed its interface to "exploit vulnerabilities in human psychology." Sadly, we can expect all future updates to do the same.

So, what is Instagram actually up to with this "no likes" approach?

Most likely, its developers have realized that those visible 'like' counts make users reluctant to share posts that aren't guaranteed to perform well. Less posts means less engagement - and when engagement equals revenue, Instagram has every reason to readjust. Plus, hiding 'like' counts will allow Facebook, Inc. to more aggressively control the platform's e-commerce ventures, meaning more profits on paid advertising.
In other words, all those statements about improving public wellbeing were just cunning PR stunts. And all those headlines proclaiming Instagram values your mental health? They're proof that we all took the bait. If you're a fan of the platform's decision to hide 'likes', great. Just don't be duped into believing they did it to help out; your mental health isn't worth a penny to a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate. 
The impending removal of visible 'likes' has only one goal: getting us to share more and stay addicted. At the end of the day, is that really any good for our mental health?
This article may appear in some platforms with a collage cover photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash.