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Instagram director Eva Chen reveals why it's experimenting with hiding 'likes'

Zack Guzman
Senior Writer

Facebook (FB) and Instagram rattled their power users earlier this year when the company announced it would begin testing hiding the amount of likes a user’s post receives in international markets.

This week, Instagram is bringing that like-hiding experiment to the U.S. for select users.

After first testing hidden likes with a select number of Instagram users in Canada this spring, the feature was expanded for testing in six other countries this summer. Facebook joined in on testing the same thing in Australia last month. So far, the tests seem to be yielding promising results, according to Instagram Director of Fashion Partnerships Eva Chen, who has also been a guinea pig for the company.

“I definitely feel like I don't really check the number of likes an image gets anymore, because it's actually two steps to find the number of likes,” she said at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit: Generational Opportunities last month. “The thinking behind hiding [likes] or making it not the first thing we see is really just to free up expression and creativity.”

Instagram director of fashion partnerships Eva Chen participates in the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit at Union West on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

The change would seem warranted — especially considering Chen also said “overthinking” when it comes to posting can be the death of Instagram for many of its users and brand partners advertising on the platform. That same belief was part of Instagram’s big push to roll out Instagram Stories, its competitor to Snap’s posts that disappear after 24 hours.

“I just kind of feel like it's closer to Stories, where you kind of post, and you're like, ‘Whatever, it's out there in the ether.’ And I definitely feel more liberated to post,” she said.

An independent survey from influencer consulting firm Paid this summer yielded mix reviews of Instagrams moves, however. In a survey of nearly 200 Canadian creators, 35% of users exposed to the test voiced displeasure on the feature compared to 34% of users who enjoyed it. Another 31% remained undecided.

Yet, as Chen points out, the impacts of hiding likes might not be felt equally among all Instagram users.

“Put yourself in the shoes of a 15-year-old who spent like an hour thinking about what she wanted to post, and then when she doesn't get the number of likes, she might take it down, or feel self-conscious,” she said. “Instagram really wants to be the safest platform, and friendliest platform, and kindest platform out there and this is just one step that we're testing to see what the response is. And so far it's, been very positive.”

Watch the complete interview with Instagram’s Eva Chen and Facebook Chief Creative Officer Mark Darcy here:

This story was first published on October 17 and has been updated to reflect Instagram’s plans to test hiding likes in the U.S.

Zack Guzman is the host of YFi PM as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, cannabis, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.

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