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Are you ‘frenvious’ on Instagram?

April 15, 2021, 1:00 PM UTC

Facebook and Instagram have been toying with hiding likes for nearly two years in order to reduce users’ negative feelings associated with social comparison. Now, the services are shifting their tests to provide users the option to turn off likes for their own posts, hide like counts on anyone else’s posts, or leave all as is—suggesting there is no one-size fits all solution. 

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, announced the plans via Twitter on Wednesday, suggesting the move was based on findings from initial tests that hid likes. “Some found this helpful and some still wanted to see like counts, in particular to track what’s popular,” he said.

Instagram began rolling out the new test on Wednesday to a “small percentage” of global users, and Facebook is “exploring a similar experience.” The company said it’s been working with experts like the JED Foundation, a nonprofit that works to prevent suicide for young people, the National Eating Disorders Association, and other experts to address well-being and social comparison on its services.

One of those experts is Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery. She said she started working with Facebook in 2019, when the company developed a parental guide to Instagram to help them aid their teens in navigating the social network. 

Whitlock told me social comparison is “one of the primary mechanisms affecting mental health on social media.” She said, “When people compare themselves based on whatever cues they can see, they’re much more likely to walk away feeling bad about themselves.” (In 2016, a writer at Slate took a shot at naming this feeling: “frenvious.”)

Some groups have a higher likelihood of feeling bad after seeing others’ posts, including people who suffer from depression or anxiety, people who already view of themselves negatively, and specifically adolescent and teen girls. “It’s a really developmentally tender time,” Whitlock said. “They care about how the world perceives them.”

But it’s unclear whether giving users the option to hide likes solves the problem. Users may not have the self-awareness to toggle their settings for the sake of their mental state. And even if they did, social media provides numerous avenues for people to compare themselves to others, likes aside—people will still be posting about enviable life achievements. 

Still, Whitlock said she believes giving people the option to switch off likes is a step in the right direction. And according to financial analysts, it likely has little to no consequence on Facebook’s business. 

“If Instagram and Facebook remain the repository for people’s memories, there won’t be as much of an impact,” said Ronald Josey, an analyst at investment banking firm JMP Securities. 

“It’s not something … [that’s] come up much in investor chats,” said Mark Schmulik, an analyst at brokerage firm AB Bernstein.

Bottom line: Hiding likes won’t fix “frenvy.” But it may help.

Danielle Abril
@DanielleDigest
danielle.abril@fortune.com

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

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“When tenants cannot meaningfully join the proceeding, often the only remaining outcome is eviction.”

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BEFORE YOU GO

Bachelor Nation fans may soon get the chance to explore Colton Underwood’s life after he came out as a gay man on national TV on Wednesday. The 2019 Bachelor has reportedly landed a deal with Netflix for a new reality series, according to Variety. But many fans still take issue with Underwood, who was accused of stalking ex Cassie Randolph following their breakup. Will Bachelor Nation follow Underwood to his new show?