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Instagram has made the controversial decision to hide the number of likes a post receives for users in some countries.

The Facebook-owned app said the move is for the well-being of its users, but people were quick to point out that it will impact the income opportunities of so-called influencers, as well as the potential engagement reach of brands and companies.

Australian PR agency The Atticism, which operates in one of the countries hit by the update, went as far as to proclaim “the death of social media” and has taken the radical step of now actively rejecting clients who come to them looking for social media management.

“Social media as we know it is dying,” said The Atticism director Renae Smith.

“According to my daughters and their friends, Instagram and Facebook are ‘lame’. Statistics are showing that a lot of the younger generation are leaving the platforms behind completely.”

Who is affected and why did Instagram do it?

Instagram first began trialling the feature in Canada earlier this year, saying it wanted people to “worry a little bit less” about how many likes they’re getting.

The trial has now extended to Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand, meaning all users in those countries will no longer be able to see the number of likes and video views a post receives.

“We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get,” Instagram wrote in a post.

The move comes in response to various studies that have found a link between mental health issues and the pressures brought about by social media use.

Can you still find out who liked a post?

Instagram says the feature is mandatory for all account holders in the seven countries, but even those users will have ways of seeing who likes their own posts.

The firm explained: “You can still see your own likes by tapping on the list of people who’ve liked it, but your friends will not be able to see how many likes your post has received.”

 

 
Instagram and other social media apps have faced pressure concerning the potential mental health issues arttributed to use of their platforms (Getty Images)

If you are not in one of the affected countries, then it is still possible to see the number of likes posts receive from users within those countries.

Also, Instagram says it does not mean the era of influencers is over, nor that brands and companies should worry about customer engagement.

“For businesses and creators on Instagram, this test will not affect measurement tools like Insights or Ads Manager,” a spokesperson said.

Will the feature spread to other countries?

Key markets for Instagram, like the UK and US, remain unaffected but the spread may appear ominous to users in these countries.

Despite the trial extending beyond Canada to six other countries, Instagram refuses to confirm the feature is permanent or that it will roll out further.

Instead, Instagram said hiding the likes and video views is a temporary trial and that it will seek feedback before making any further decisions.​