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Hiding Instagram Likes: Effects on negative affect and loneliness


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Instagram, the social networking site (SNS), recently tested the initiative of hiding the number of Likes a post receives from other users. Instagram's rationale for hiding Likes was to support wellbeing through reduced competition for Likes. In an experiment with 280 Instagram users in the United States, we investigated the effect of hiding Likes on negative affect and loneliness. Scenarios were created to simulate receipt of higher or lower Likes than desired, and the visibility of those Likes to others. Findings indicate that receiving greater Likes than desired reduces loneliness but increases negative affect, and this result is exacerbated by the visibility of Likes. However, when Likes are low, it does not make a difference to negative affect whether those Likes are visible or not. Vulnerable narcissism was associated with loneliness. Findings provide support for Instagram's initiative, and reveal new insights about the interrelationship between loneliness and negative affect in Instagram use.
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Personality and Individual Dierences xxx (xxxx) xxx
Please cite this article as: Elaine Wallace, Isabel Buil, Personality and Individual Dierences,
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Hiding Instagram Likes: Effects on negative affect and loneliness
Elaine Wallace
, Isabel Buil
Whitaker Institute, National University of Ireland Galway, University Road, Galway H91 TK33, Ireland
Faculty of Business and Economics of the University of Zaragoza, María de Luna, s/n - Edicio Lorenzo Normante, 50018 Zaragoza, Spain
Social comparison
Negative affect
Vulnerable narcissism
Instagram, the social networking site (SNS), recently tested the initiative of hiding the number of Likes a post
receives from other users. Instagrams rationale for hiding Likes was to support wellbeing through reduced
competition for Likes. In an experiment with 280 Instagram users in the United States, we investigated the effect
of hiding Likes on negative affect and loneliness. Scenarios were created to simulate receipt of higher or lower
Likes than desired, and the visibility of those Likes to others. Findings indicate that receiving greater Likes than
desired reduces loneliness but increases negative affect, and this result is exacerbated by the visibility of Likes.
However, when Likes are low, it does not make a difference to negative affect whether those Likes are visible or
not. Vulnerable narcissism was associated with loneliness. Findings provide support for Instagrams initiative,
and reveal new insights about the interrelationship between loneliness and negative affect in Instagram use.
1. Introduction
Instagram has more than one billion monthly active users and over
500 million daily active stories users (Instagram, 2020). Instagram users
are motivated by self-expression and social interaction (Lee, Lee, Moon,
& Sung, 2015). The functionality of Instagram makes it particularly
attractive to users, as it presents opportunities for self-presentation
through photographs and short videos (Moon, Lee, Lee, Choi, & Sung,
2016). Instagram can also be a means of social comparison through
viewing othersposts and photos (Lee, 2014). However, social com-
parison has been associated with negative psychological outcomes,
including negative affect (Vogel, Rose, Okdie, Eckles, & Franz, 2015).
Social media users are also motivated by a need to belong (Nadkarni &
Hofmann, 2012) and a question remains about whether SNSs make
people more or less lonely (Yang, 2016).
Instagram recently undertook a pilot initiative to hide the visibility
of Likes. In the trial, users could see their own Likes but their followers
were not able to see how many Likes the photo or video received. Adam
Mosseri, Instagram CEO, said ‘the aim is to depressurize Instagram,
make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on
connecting with the people they love(Paul, 2019). Given Instagrams
popularity, it is important to investigate how hiding Likes could impact
user wellbeing. Research has begun to consider the impact of SNSs on
wellbeing, for example investigating the relationship between depres-
sion symptoms and Facebook use (Baker & Algorta, 2016), and reduced
feelings of belonging (Whillans & Chen, 2018). Image-based platforms
such as Instagram have been highlighted for associations with negative
outcomes such as loneliness (Pittman & Reich, 2016). Also, Jackson and
Luchner (2018) found that self-critical individuals responded with
negative affect to Instagram scenarios including receiving fewer than a
desired number of Likes.
The current study contributes to this literature. We present the re-
sults of an experiment investigating the impact of the number of Likes
received, and the visibility of those Likes, on usersnegative affect and
loneliness. Furthermore, cognisant that vulnerable narcissism relates to
a fearful or anxious attachment style (Besser & Priel, 2010), the study
investigates vulnerable narcissism as a covariate.
1.1. Social comparison theory, Instagram Likes and well-being outcomes
Studies show that SNS use fulls the need to belong, through afli-
ation with others (Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2012). For example, loneliness
is associated with greater daily use of SNSs, with lonely individuals
seeking to connect with others via SNSs (Hunt, Marx, Lipson, & Young,
2018), and generating and consuming more content on Instagram
(Pittman, 2015). However, SNSs are also a means for social comparison.
Social comparison is the process of thinking about other people in
relation to oneself (Wood, 1996). Social comparison is ‘an adaptive
mechanism for sizing up onescompetitors(Buunk & Gibbons, 2007, p.
3). Comparisons are made with a target in relation to some criterion that
* Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (E. Wallace), (I. Buil).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Personality and Individual Differences
journal homepage:
Received 23 June 2020; Received in revised form 15 September 2020; Accepted 6 November 2020
Personality and Individual Dierences xxx (xxxx) xxx
one considers important (Buunk & Gibbons, 2007). Social comparisons
on social media could lead to negative outcomes for the self (Baker &
Algorta, 2016), such as negative affect (Vogel et al., 2015).
A major goal of Instagram is to achieve a large number of Likes for
posts, relative to others (Dumas, Maxwell-Smith, Davis, & Giulietti,
2017; Sheldon & Bryant, 2016). In general, individuals are motivated to
form social attachments and supportive social networks to enhance
wellbeing (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Social media are a source of
perceived social support (Whon, Carr, & Hayes, 2016). Paralinguistic
digital affordances (PDAs) such as Likes, are one-click, lightweight
feedback cues that facilitate communication through an icon (Hayes,
Carr, & Wohn, 2016). Extant research found that perceived social sup-
port is ascribed to PDAs (Whon et al., 2016), with those seeking greater
social support from posts more likely to perceive this support from PDAs
(Carr, Wohn, & Hayes, 2016). Thus, it is reasonable that Instagram
users, especially those seeking social support, appreciate greater
numbers of Likes. Instagram users are aware that greater numbers of
Likes indicate popularity (Sheldon & Bryant, 2016). Research investi-
gating Like-seeking behaviour therefore considers that attaining atten-
tion and approval through Likes is valued (Dumas et al., 2017).
However, as yet, there are not conclusive results from studies
investigating the effects of Instagram Likes on wellbeing outcomes. For
example, de Vries, M¨
oller, Wieringa, Eigenraam, and Hamelink (2018)
found that social comparison was not the catalyst of negative emotions.
Meier and Sch¨
afer (2018) found that envy on Instagram could drive
inspiration, which minimised negative affect. Reich, Schneider, and
Heling (2018) found that those who received zero Likes had less satis-
faction of belongingness and greater negative affect. Jackson and
Luchner (2018) found that negative feedback in terms of Likes or follows
were associated with negative affect, when individuals seek to connect
with others. On the other hand, Dumas et al. (2017, p. 8) suggest that
some lonely individuals could be discouraged from seeking Likes
because they do not perceive that others ‘care or are interested in them
enough to actually acknowledge or Like their photos. Yet Likes are
considered a form of validation and a signal of popularity (Sheldon &
Bryant, 2016), and users have sometimes sought to increase Likes to
achieve further Likes (Dumas et al., 2017). Clearly, the effect of Insta-
gram Likes on negative affect and loneliness merits further study.
Moreover, little is known about the effect of hiding Likes on users
wellbeing. Drawing on Instagrams recent initiative, and building on the
emerging body of research on Likes and wellbeing, we conducted an
experiment to examine the effect of the number of Likes received for an
Instagram post, and the visibility of those Likes, on negative affect and
loneliness. We hypothesised that receiving more than the desired
number of Likes for a post would decrease negative affect (H1) and
loneliness (H2). Instagram has argued that removing Likes stops users
from worrying about feedback, allowing them to focus on content, and
removing the pressure on the popularity of the post. Therefore, we
hypothesised that hiding Likes received would decrease negative affect
(H3) and loneliness (H4). Moreover, as individuals seek to obtain Likes
but Instagram proposes that hiding Likes supports wellbeing, we
considered an interaction effect between number of Likes received and
the visibility of Likes on usersnegative affect (H5) and loneliness (H6).
Furthermore, research suggests that vulnerable narcissists have a
greater fear of being evaluated (Hart, Adams, Burton, & Tortoriello,
2017). Vulnerable narcissists may be hypersensitive to image threat,
expecting that others will evaluate the self negatively (Leary, 1983).
Vulnerable narcissists impression management motivation is high
where there are opportunities for image cultivation (Hart et al., 2017),
such as SNSs. Vulnerable narcissism has also been associated with
anxiety and an avoidance attachment style, as well as feelings of in-
adequacy, incompetence and negative affect (Miller et al., 2011).
Therefore, we included vulnerable narcissism as a covariate and inves-
tigated whether vulnerable narcissism would be positively related to
negative affect (H7) and loneliness (H8).
2. Method
2.1. Study design and participants
Participants were rst asked how many Likes (‘x) they would need
to receive to be satised with an Instagram post. The study then
employed a 2 (Number of Likes received for an Instagram post: more vs.
less than ‘x) x 2 (Likes visibility: followers can see Likes vs. followers
cannot see Likes) between-subjects experimental design.
The study was performed in line with university ethical standards.
Participants were recruited in the United States from Amazon Mechan-
ical Turk (MTurk) in November 2019. They were paid $1.70 for
participation. Only MTurk users with an approval rate of 95% or better
were allowed to take part in the study. Data was collected over 24 h. All
participants passed two screening questions they had an Instagram
account which they had accessed since September 2019 and they had
posted about climate change on their Instagram account in the previous
six months. All participants were over 18 years of age and gave full
consent to participate in the study.
The study requested individuals to think about posting an image
about climate change because it is a timely topic, and therefore posts
about this issue are common, and could be reasonably expected to
achieve Likes. We considered that scenarios about posting seles or
other images featuring the self could result in a misinterpretation of
Likes received as a proxy of liking for the self, rather than the post. Thus,
the more neutral topic of climate change was considered appropriate.
The expected effect size was unknown. Therefore, the software
G*Power (version was used to estimate the sample size (Faul,
Erdfelder, Lang, & Buchner, 2007). For an alpha of 0.05, an effect size
estimated of 0.2 and a power of 80%, a total sample size of 199 would be
required. In line with best practice for MTurk, we provided a quality
question as a screening check (Meade & Craig, 2012). Additionally, only
participants who completed the questionnaire at a reasonable length of
time were included. Overall, these checks resulted in 436 participants.
Following the manipulation checks, described below, the nal number
of participants was 280, above the required sample size. 61.8% were
male and the mean age was 34.3 years. The majority of participants
worked full time outside the home (86.4%), and 60.7% held an Un-
dergraduate Degree or Diploma. 20.4% of participants had up to 100
followers on Instagram and 26.1% had between 101 and 300 followers.
53.2% spent up to 1 h on Instagram daily.
2.2. Procedure
Participants were asked: ‘What is the minimum number of Likes you
would think is necessary for you to be satised with an Instagram post?
In response to this question, the average number of Likes was 145.92,
with a standard deviation of 647.5. The median was 25 with an inter-
quartile range (IQR) of 8.5 to 100. The number of Likes provided by the
respondent was then included as the text entry value ‘xin a scenario
presented as follows: Imagine a scenario where you have posted an
image about climate change on your Instagram feed, and after 3 days
you have received a lot less/a lot more than ‘xLikes. Your followers can
see/None of your followers can see the number of Likes your post has
The experiment was set up on Qualtrics. Participants were randomly
assigned to one of the four experimental conditions. They then
completed manipulation checks, and answered questions relating to the
dependent variables and covariate, and provided demographic infor-
mation. After assessing the effectiveness of the experimental manipu-
lations, the composition of the groups was as follows: group 1 (more
Likes, followers can see Likes, n =96); group 2 (more Likes, followers
cannot see Likes, n =62); group 3 (less Likes, followers can see Likes, n
=68); and group 4 (less Likes, followers cannot see Likes, n =54).
E. Wallace and I. Buil
Personality and Individual Dierences xxx (xxxx) xxx
2.3. Measures
Negative affect was measured using the negative affect items (i.e.,
upset, hostile, ashamed, nervous, and afraid) from the positive and
negative affect schedule (PANAS) (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988).
Participants were asked to think about the scenario presented to them,
and indicate how the 5 different emotional states corresponded with
how they would feel in that moment, on a 5-point scale (1 =very slightly
or not at all, 5 =extremely). The 5 items were averaged (M =2.93, SD =
Loneliness was measured using the 10 items from the R-UCLA scale
(Russell, Peplau, & Cutrona, 1980). Again, participants were asked to
think about the scenario, and indicate how they might feel in that sce-
nario. The scale items include ‘I feel in tune with the people around me
and ‘I do not feel alone, measured on a 5-point scale (never, seldom,
sometimes, regularly, and often). Results suggested deleting four items
since their item-to-total correlation was below 0.3. The remaining items
were averaged (M =2.26, SD =1.15,
Vulnerable narcissism was measured using the hypersensitive narcis-
sism scale by Hendin and Cheek (1997). This scale is commonly used to
measure vulnerable narcissism (e.g., Hart et al., 2017). Participants
rated their level of agreement on a 5-point Likert scale (1 =strongly
agree; 5 =strongly disagree) to a series of statements which include ‘My
feelings are easily hurt by ridicule or by the slighting remarks of others.
One item from this scale was deleted since its item-to-total correlation
was below 0.3. The remaining items were averaged (M =2.87, SD =
3. Results
3.1. Manipulation check
Two items assessed the participantsunderstanding of the manipu-
lation. The rst question was Thinking about the scenario you have just
read, were the number of Likes a lot more or a lot less than ‘x?, with ‘x
being the number of Likes previously provided by the respondent.
Possible answers were ‘A lot moreand ‘A lot less. Second, we asked
‘Thinking about the scenario you have just read, can your followers see
how many Likes you received for the post?‘My followers can seeand
‘None of my followers can seewere the options provided. Overall,
76.78% of participants correctly lled out the manipulation check
question about the number of Likes (93.87% in the ‘a lot morecondition
and 60.54% in the ‘a lot less condition). 75.86% of participants
correctly lled out the manipulation check question about the visibility
of Likes (96.28% in the ‘My followers can seecondition and 55.91% in
the ‘None of my followers can seecondition). Only those participants
who correctly identied i) the scenario had presented them with more/
fewer Likes than they had indicated, and ii) their followers could/could
not see their Likes, were included in the remainder of the study.
3.2. Test of hypotheses
To test the hypotheses, we conducted two ANCOVAs, one for each
dependent variable: negative affect and loneliness. The independent
variables were number of Likes and visibility of Likes. Vulnerable
narcissism was included as covariate. Table 1 presents the ANCOVA
results. Marginal means and standard deviations are presented in
Table 2.
We posited that when the number of Likes a user receives is more
than their desired number of Likes, negative affect (H1) and loneliness
(H2) are lower. The analysis revealed a signicant main effect of the
number of Likes on negative affect (F(1, 275) =42.42; p <0.01; partial
=0.13). However, those individuals who received a lot more Likes
had greater negative affect than those that received a lot less Likes
More Likes
=3.23; M
Less Likes
=2.45). Thus, H1 was not supported. The
number of Likes had a signicant impact on loneliness (F(1, 275) =7.10;
p <0.05; partial
=0.03). Loneliness was greater among participants
who received a lot less Likes than those who received a lot more Likes
More Likes
=2.12; M
Less Likes
=2.42), supporting H2.
In relation to the visibility of Likes (H3 and H4), results revealed that
the main effect of the visibility of Likes on negative affect was signicant
(F(1, 275) =6.44; p <0.05; partial
=0.02). When Likes were seen by
others, negative affect was greater (M
Likes seen
=2.99; M
Likes not seen
2.69). Thus, H3 was supported. Loneliness was also greater when Likes
were visible (M
Likes seen
=2.31; M
Likes not seen
=2.23). However, means
were not statistically different (F(1, 275) =0.49; p >0.1). Therefore, H4
was not supported.
Results showed a statistically signicant two-way interaction (F(1,
275) =6.90; p <0.05; partial
=0.02) between number of Likes
received and the visibility of those Likes on negative affect (see Fig. 1),
supporting H5. When the number of Likes received was a lot more than
their desired number of Likes, negative affect was higher when those
Likes were seen than when they were not seen. However, when the
number of Likes received was a lot less, negative affect was the same
whether Likes were seen or not. Results also showed that the interaction
of number of Likes and visibility was non-signicant for loneliness (F(1,
275) =0.46; p >0.1). Therefore, H6 was not supported.
Finally, we posited that vulnerable narcissism is positively associated
with both negative affect (H7) and loneliness (H8). Contrary to what was
expected, the results showed negative affect was not linked to vulner-
able narcissism (F =0.90, p >0.1). Therefore, H7 was not supported. By
contrast, vulnerable narcissism had a positive and signicant relation-
ship with loneliness (F =158.52, p <0.01; partial
=0.37), supporting
4. Discussion
While attaining Likes is a goal for Instagram followers (Sheldon &
Bryant, 2016), and social attention through Likes is valued (Dumas
et al., 2017), previous research had suggested a negative relationship
between social media use and psychological wellbeing (Baker & Algorta,
2016; Vogel et al., 2015), including loneliness (Pittman & Reich, 2016)
and negative affect (Jackson & Luchner, 2018). Following Instagrams
recent initiative to support wellbeing by hiding usersLikes from others,
our study is the rst to investigate the effect of the number of Likes
received, and the visibility of those Likes, on wellbeing outcomes.
Using a simulated scenario we investigated the effect of hiding
Table 1
ANCOVA results for the effects of number of Likes and visibility of Likes on
negative affect and loneliness outcomes, and vulnerable narcissism as a
Negative affect
Main effects
Number of Likes 42.42*** 7.10***
Visibility of Likes 6.44** 0.49
Number x visibility 6.90*** 0.46
Vulnerable narcissism 0.90 158.52***
Note: values in bold indicate signicant levels at ** p <0.05 and *** p <0.01.
Table 2
Marginal means and standard deviations.
Negative affect Loneliness
More Likes 3.23 (0.08) 2.12 (0.07)
Less Likes 2.45 (0.09) 2.42 (0.08)
Followers can see Likes 2.99 (0.08) 2.31 (0.07)
Followers cannot see Likes 2.69 (0.09) 2.23 (0.08)
Note: displayed are means adjusted for the covariate; 5-point scale.
E. Wallace and I. Buil
Personality and Individual Dierences xxx (xxxx) xxx
Instagram Likes on userswellbeing, considering the effect of the num-
ber of Likes that their Instagram post received in the scenario of high
(versus low) Likes received and those Likes being visible (versus hidden)
to Instagram followers. Our study shows that the measure proposed by
Instagram helps to improve wellbeing, in particular in terms of changes
to negative affect.
Findings indicate that receiving more Likes leads to greater negative
affect, and this is compounded by the visibility of those Likes. When the
number of Likes received is lower, negative affect is the same whether
those Likes are visible or not. Jackson and Luchner (2018) found that
lower Likes were associated with greater negative affect. We nd the
opposite effect for number of Likes, and we offer an explanation for the
result. Those who score lower on life satisfaction are more likely to use
Instagram to appear ‘cool(Sheldon & Bryant, 2016). Perhaps Instagram
users who achieve more Likes experience negative affect from pressure
to appear ‘cool, and this is exacerbated by the visibility of those Likes to
others, as they perceive that they are being judged.
We also considered that social comparison could lead to negative
affect. When individuals compare themselves with others that are better
off (Festinger, 1954), they may feel inferior (Meier & Sch¨
afer, 2018). In
the context of Instagram, we nd that more Likes leads to greater
negative affect, especially when those Likes are seen. It is likely that
individuals strive to achieve more Likes, aware that others are
comparing themselves to them. When Likes are high, possibly those
Likes are never sufcient to avoid negative affect, as one is always
comparing oneself to others, whose Likes are also seen. By contrast,
when those Likes are low, the visibility of those Likes makes no differ-
ence to the level of negative affect. Perhaps in such instances, the
Instagram user perceives they have already ‘lostto others who have
more Likes, therefore the visibility of lower Likes does not matter to
Extant literature suggests that fewer Likes may be interpreted as
implied criticism from others, and therefore negative feedback in terms
of fewer Likes has greater negative outcomes than positive feedback in
terms of greater Likes (Jackson & Luchner, 2018). This study also found
that lower levels of Likes lead to greater loneliness. Possibly not
receiving the desired number of Likes leads one to feel left out by peers.
Although loneliness was higher when Likes were visible, means were not
statistically different. Therefore, results suggest that individuals feel
lonely whether their Likes are visible or not. Yet attaining more Likes is
associated with a reduction in loneliness. Individuals may engage in
Like-seeking behaviour (Dumas et al., 2017) if they feel lonely, to attain
more validation (Sheldon & Bryant, 2016), or to increase their visibility
among peers (Dumas et al., 2017). While we also nd that achieving
greater numbers of Likes is associated with lower levels of loneliness,
achieving greater numbers of Likes also leads to greater negative affect.
We suggest that Like-seeking may be a vicious cycle, whereby in-
dividuals seek Likes to feel less lonely, yet more Likes exacerbate their
negative affect. This cycle may, in turn, lead the individual to feel
dissatised, which may trigger Like-seeking.
Our study also addresses Zhang, Zou, Wang, and Finys (2015) call to
investigate the relationship between vulnerable narcissism and loneli-
ness. Results indicate a relationship between vulnerable narcissism and
loneliness in the context of Instagram. Research suggests that vulnerable
narcissists may experience more sensitivity to interpersonal rejection
(Besser & Priel, 2010), and vulnerable narcissists may choose to engage
in tactics to avoid rejection (Hart et al., 2017). As this studys ndings
show that greater numbers of Likes helps to reduce loneliness, we sug-
gest that those with vulnerable narcissism may seek Likes to avoid
rejection, and therefore feel less lonely. However, this Like-seeking may
compound a ‘vicious cyclewhere one achieves more Likes, and feels less
lonely, but experiences more negative affect.
Findings indicate that individuals negative outcomes of Instagram
use may depend on whether those outcomes are visible to others or not.
The visibility of Likes is associated with negative affect and negative
affect is greater when the number of Likes is high. Therefore, ndings
extend the contention that there is a negative psychological impact of
Instagram use. Indeed, we nd little evidence to suggest that the in-
dicators of individualswellbeing in our study are improved by showing
Likes to others, and we suggest that Instagrams initiative to hide likes
would support individualswellbeing.
4.1. Limitations and future directions
Several limitations should be considered. First, our study provided
users with a scenario, whereby users imagined receiving greater/less
Likes than they would have liked following an Instagram post, and that
their followers could/could not see the number of Likes received. While
manipulation checks offered reassurance, we acknowledge that partic-
ipants could have found it difcult to imagine themselves in those sce-
narios. We advocate further research to test these results in an
experiment during which participants use Instagram and receive live
responses to their posts which are visible/hidden.
Second, we asked people to think about the post they made about
climate change, instead of using personal images such as seles. Future
research could investigate the same manipulations in a scenario where
images of the self are posted, to determine whether the type of post has
an impact on results.
Third, the study provides new insights into the effect of Instagrams
initiative of hiding Likes on the user. However, capturing followers
views was outside of the scope of the study. As the effects on viewers of
Instagram posts are also important, we advocate further research to
extend the investigation of hidden Likeseffects on Instagram followers.
Fourth, only those respondents who correctly answered the manip-
ulation checks were included in the study. As the hiding of Instagram
Likes is a new initiative from Instagram, perhaps some respondents were
More Likes Less Like s
Negative affect
Followers can see Likes
Followers cannot see Likes
Fig. 1. Interaction effect of number of Likes and visibility on negative affect.
E. Wallace and I. Buil
Personality and Individual Dierences xxx (xxxx) xxx
not familiar with the idea and could not conceptualise how Likes might
be hidden. Nevertheless, the removal of these cases offers reassurance
that the respondents who answered correctly understood the
Fifth, our study investigated vulnerable narcissism but we did not
consider other forms of narcissism, or other ‘dark triadtraits (Hart et al.,
2017) that contribute to explaining variance in loneliness (Zhang et al.,
2015). Further research could consider these traits in investigating ef-
fects of hiding Likes.
This work was supported by the Government of Spain and the Eu-
ropean Regional Development Fund (ERDF) (project ECO2017-82103-
P); the Gobierno de Arag´
on (GENERES Group S-54_20R); and the
Research Incentivisation Scheme at the J. E. Cairnes School of Business
& Economics, National University of Ireland Galway.
CRediT authorship contribution statement
Elaine Wallace: Conceptualization, Methodology, Validation,
Investigation, Resources, Data curation, Writing - original draft, Writing
- review & editing, Visualization, Funding acquisition. Isabel Buil:
Conceptualization, Methodology, Software, Validation, Formal analysis,
Investigation, Resources, Data curation, Writing - original draft, Writing
- review & editing, Visualization, Funding acquisition.
Declaration of competing interest
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E. Wallace and I. Buil
... Using the concept of posting photos on social media as a social cue of forming an impression and a tool for communication (Bradley et al., 2019), researchers also found that higher social media engagement leads to higher popularity and likability rates (Viernam et al., 2016). Furthermore, research suggests that visibility of likes resulted in higher negative affect and loneliness in individuals who post (Wallace and Buil, 2021). And so, this present research contextualizes previous research on social media engagement and further focuses on whether the number of likes (high, low, hidden) influences likability in individuals. ...
... While previous research suggests a relationship between a high amount of likes/followers on Instagram to higher likability rates (Bradley et al., 2019), the implications of this study emphasize that hidden likes lead to higher likability rates compared to high and low likes conditions from the viewer's perspective. With previous research suggesting a low number of likes to higher levels of loneliness and a greater number of likes to greater negative affect in users, the findings of this present study can imply that hidden likes can combat both negative affect, loneliness, and increase the perceived likability of users (Wallace and Buil, 2021). ...
... Existing research remains vague on what exactly about SM triggers social comparison and envy, or what supposedly causes them to be more frequent, intense, or harmful. Through the lens of computer-mediated communication [2], social comparison and envy could be shaped by ubiquitous mobile access [36]; the sheer amount of SMU across applications [35,37]; 8 characteristics and culture of individual apps [9,30]; design features signaling social status (e.g., likes) [48]; whether one interacts with strangers, influencers, or likeminded friends [8,28,31,33,41,49]; characteristics of SM messages, such as content (e.g., fitspiration vs. travel) or modality (e.g., visual vs. textual), or their algorithmic ranking [17,18,22,38,39]-or any combination of these factors. ...
... Agency is also no panacea against inadvertent negative effects of SMU [7,54]. Still, identifying design interventions that increase users' 9 control over exposure, comparison and envy reactions, or the outcomes of unintentional comparisons, will enhance both our knowledge of these processes and users' experiences [48,49]. ...
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There is both public and scholarly concern that (passive) social media use decreases well-being by providing a fertile ground for harmful (upward) social comparison and envy. The present review critically summarizes evidence on this assumption. We first comprehensively synthesize existing evidence, including both prior reviews and the most recent publications (2019 to 2021). Results show that earlier research finds social comparison and envy to be common on social media and linked to lower well-being. Yet, increasingly, newer studies contradict this conclusion, finding positive links to well-being as well as heterogeneous, person-specific, conditional, and reverse or reciprocal effects. The review identifies four critical conceptual and methodological limitations of existing evidence, which offer new impulses for future research.
... Specifically, various researchers have suggested that the number of likes received on posts is an important index of popularity among adolescents who interpret likes as evaluative feedback on themselves, which could also influence the users' mood (e.g. Dumas et al., 2017;Reich et al., 2018;Wallace & Buil, 2021). In this respect, Hayes et al. (2016) observed in a focus group and interviews with young users that receiving likes on Facebook posts made individuals feel better and increased their perceived social status. ...
... This new Instagram feature could prove to be a very interesting factor to evaluate in future research. It would allow researchers to examine the degree of the importance that adolescents and young people attach to likes and the effect that activating this option generates on the users' emotional state, as compared to when likes are shown publicly (see Wallace & Buil, 2021). On the other hand, Instagram's evaluative feedback is not limited exclusively to the number of likes received, which could be another limiting factor of the study. ...
Instagram is a social networking site (SNS) that facilitate the social-comparison and feedback-seeking (SCFS) processes, which are particularly relevant during adolescence. Likes represent numeric evaluative feedback and seem to be considered as a form of social reward. In this research we examine some psychosocial factors that could influence the Instagram usage intensity (i.e. SCFS and motivations) and analyze the moderating role of SCFS in the relationship between the number of likes on posts and adolescents’ emotions. The sample consisted of 182 adolescent students aged between 13 and 18 years (M = 15.35 years, SD = 1.11). The results show that the social interaction, storage, and gossip motivations mediate the relationship between SCFS and Instagram usage intensity, and that the influence of the number of likes on emotions depended on the degree of SCFS. The discussion of the findings emphasizes that likes have a special social and affective relevance for adolescents with high SCFS, who might become more emotionally susceptible to the feedback they received from their audience on Instagram. This research could be a precedent to future research and the development of intervention programs based on the responsible use of SNSs in an educative context.
... However, other research into organisational behaviour has shown that transparency has detrimental effects on employee engagement, thereby motivating knowledge hiding (Chen et al., 2020;Ma et al., 2020). For example, based on personality differences, people may regard TC positively or negatively (Wallace and Buil, 2021). Therefore, these two research streams prompt us to study why, how and when TC is positive or negative, and based on previously drawn links between ESM and TC and calls for research to explore the role of TC in the open use of ESM, we examine the moderating role of TC at the first stage of the modelin the relationships of ESM use with ABT and CBT. ...
Purpose The purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of enterprise social media (ESM) use on two trust dimensions – affect-based trust (ABT) and cognition-based trust (CBT) – as mediators in the relationship between ESM use and knowledge sharing. In the first stage of the proposed model, the authors also consider transparent communication (TC) and personal blogging with colleagues (PBC) during work and non-work hours as moderators that reshape trust levels and subsequently promote knowledge sharing within the organisation. Design/methodology/approach The authors collected the data in three waves from employees in China, the world’s largest market for social media. Five companies, including three information technology companies and two software companies, were targeted for data collection. Initially, a total of 403 ESM users were recruited, but the final sample in the final round was reduced to N = 292. The authors used Mplus (v8.5) to calculate direct path coefficients and indirect moderated-mediation effects. Findings The use of ESM promotes ABT and CBT, thereby improving knowledge sharing. ABT and CBT both fully mediate the effect of ESM use on knowledge sharing. However, the research reveals paradoxical findings regarding moderation. For example, on the one hand, TC negatively moderates the association between ESM use and ABT, thereby reducing knowledge sharing in the workplace. On the other hand, TC strengthens the relationship between the use of ESM and CBT, thereby increasing knowledge sharing. These contradictory findings indicate that TC functions as a double-edged sword; thus, the effective use of ESM in the workplace requires managers’ intervention. Finally, the analysis reveals that the moderating role of PBC strengthens the association between ESM use and both ABT and CBT, thereby increasing knowledge sharing. Originality/value While stakeholders have expressed concern regarding the adverse impacts of workplace ESM adoption on employee performance, the authors provide a broad, novel perspective on the potential of ESM use to enhance knowledge sharing via trust (i.e. ABT and CBT). To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to offer a comparative view of trust dimensions, such as ABT and CBT, and to discuss how, why and when TC and PBC interactions moderate the relationship of ESM to ABT and CBT and thereby lead to knowledge sharing. These interesting findings guide further research into the role of ESM in the workplace, especially research based on rational choice theory and communication visibility theory, by illuminating the ways in which employees can use ESM to reshape social communication in the workplace and thereby enhance knowledge sharing.
... Even though several platforms have experimented with options of hiding or removing such signals [20], these signals can assist users in both locating valuable and avoiding unhelpful or harmful content [18] and thus represent valued engagement metrics [1]. However, there are questions concerning the worth and/or harm of using social expressions of approval/disapproval, e.g., in the form of cyberattacks [5,9,16], and there appear to be age and gender differences related to the use of these features [8,15]. Due to potential benefits and risks, the long-term effects of hiding the dislike count remain to be seen and require research in several areas, such as online advertising [17]. ...
Conference Paper
Using data from a major international news organization, we investigate the effect of hiding the count of dislikes from YouTube viewers on the propensity to use the video like/dislike features. We compare one entire month of videos before (n = 478) and after (n = 394) YouTube began hiding the dislikes counts. Collectively, these videos had received 450,200 likes and 41,892 dislikes. To account for content variability, we analyze the likes/dislikes by sentiment class (positive, neutral, negative). Results of chi-square testing show that while both likes and dislikes decreased after the hiding, dislikes decreased substantially more. We repeat the analysis with four other YouTube news channels in various languages (Arabic, English, French, Spanish) and one non-news organization, with similar results in all but one case. Findings from these multiple organizations suggest that YouTube hiding the number of dislikes from viewers has altered the user-platform interactions for the like/dislike features. Therefore, comparing the like/dislike metrics before and after the removal would give invalid insights into users’ reactions to content on YouTube.
The potential for being “liked” on social networking sites to increase life satisfaction and reduce loneliness was tested in a nationally representative web survey and again over time. The initial sample was matched to U.S. Census percentages for sex, race, ethnicity, age, and region of residence in October of 2019 ( N = 1250). A smaller group of respondents was surveyed in January and April of 2020, with the final wave occurring after the COVID-19 pandemic had begun ( N = 665). Results suggest that having posts liked on sites including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram contributes to life satisfaction, and life satisfaction mediates the influence of networked social likes on loneliness. Digital demonstrations of social support relate to thinking life is good, which can diminish perceived isolation. This was true in the lead-up to the pandemic, and in the midst of it, with social likes reducing loneliness by first increasing one’s sense of cognitive well-being.
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Introduction: Given the breadth of correlational research linking social media use to worse well-being, we undertook an experimental study to investigate the potential causal role that social media plays in this relationship. Method: After a week of baseline monitoring, 143 undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania were randomly assigned to either limit Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat use to 10 minutes, per platform, per day, or to use social media as usual for three weeks. Results: The limited use group showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group. Both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring. Discussion: Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.
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A growing body of research finds social network sites (SNS) such as Instagram to facilitate social comparison and the emotional experience of envy in everyday life, with harmful effects for users' well-being. Yet, previous research has exclusively focused on the negative side of social comparison and envy on SNS. Thereby, it has neglected two important aspects: (a) comparison processes can also elicit a beneficial emotional reaction to other users' online self-presentations (i.e., benign envy) and, thus, (b) comparisons can be motivating, with positive outcomes for well-being. The present study aims at closing this research gap by investigating how social comparisons and envy on SNS are related to inspiration, a complex motivational state. Due to its specific characteristics of a creative and aesthetic visual culture, we focus our investigation on Instagram. A structural equation modeling mediation analysis with data from N = 385 Instagram users reveals that the intensity of social comparisons on Instagram was positively related to inspiration and that this relationship was fully mediated by benign envy. Furthermore, inspiration on Instagram was related to increased positive affect. Results of this study underline that to understand the effects of SNS on well-being, we also need to consider the positive motivational side of social comparison and envy.
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The paper looks at the symbolic interactions on social networking sites, such as Likes on Facebook, and their role in users' sense of social in- or exclusion. In an online experiment, users of Facebook were asked to write a possible status update and then received note about the numbers of hypothetical Likes they received (zero, two, or thirty) and who (close friends or acquaintances) pressed the Like button. Multivariate analysis of variances showed that belongingness and self-esteem needs are threatened when people do not receive Likes. In contrast, more Likes seem to satisfy these needs better. The influence of who gives the Likes is minor compared to the sheer number of Likes.
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Instagram, a social networking site (SNS) with an emphasis on photo-sharing, is popular among young adults. Past research revealed positive and negative consequences from SNS use. We investigated how individuals emotionally respond to imagined positive and negative Instagram feedback depending on personality and self-presentation on Instagram, using a sample of Instagram users 18–30. The Depressive Experiences Questionnaire measured personality; the Self-Presentation on Facebook Questionnaire (adapted for Instagram) measured self-presentation on Instagram; positive and negative Instagram feedback scenarios were created to simulate situations experienced on Instagram; positive and negative affect clusters measured emotional reaction to the Instagram scenarios. False self-presentation mediated the relationship between Self-criticism and affective response to negative Instagram scenarios, highlighting the negative impact of intent to deceive on social media. Additionally, individuals scoring high in the maladaptive personality measures, Dependency and Self-criticism, responded with negative affect to the negative Instagram scenarios. Participants scoring high in Dependency and Efficacy (adaptive personality) responded with positive affect to the positive Instagram scenarios. We discussed the implications of the findings within the context of the two polarities model of personality and past research.
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This experiment investigates the emotional consequences of viewing strangers’ positive posts on Instagram. From a social comparison perspective, strangers’ positive posts on social media are expected to negatively affect viewers’ emotions. From an emotional contagion perspective, strangers’ positive posts should positively affect viewers’ emotions. The current lab experiment examines both the social comparison and the emotional contagion perspective while taking individual differences into account. Participants viewed positive, neutral, or no posts of confederates. In support of the social comparison perspective, individuals who tend to compare themselves to others reported lower positive affect if they had viewed positive posts than if they had viewed neutral or no posts. In support of the emotional contagion perspective, individuals who tend not to engage in social comparison reported higher positive affect after viewing positive posts than after viewing neutral or no posts. These findings indicate that individual differences in processing tendencies lead people to respond to social information on social media in opposite ways.
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Ever since the emergence of social networking sites (SNSs), it has remained a question without a conclusive answer whether SNSs make people more or less lonely. To achieve a better understanding, researchers need to move beyond studying overall SNS usage. In addition, it is necessary to attend to personal attributes as potential moderators. Given that SNSs provide rich opportunities for social comparison, one highly relevant personality trait would be social comparison orientation (SCO), and yet this personal attribute has been understudied in social media research. Drawing on literature of psychosocial implications of social media use and SCO, this study explored associations between loneliness and various Instagram activities and the role of SCO in this context. A total of 208 undergraduate students attending a U.S. mid-southern university completed a self-report survey (Mage = 19.43, SD = 1.35; 78 percent female; 57 percent White). Findings showed that Instagram interaction and Instagram browsing were both related to lower loneliness, whereas Instagram broadcasting was associated with higher loneliness. SCO moderated the relationship between Instagram use and loneliness such that Instagram interaction was related to lower loneliness only for low SCO users. The results revealed implications for healthy SNS use and the importance of including personality traits and specific SNS use patterns to disentangle the role of SNS use in psychological well-being.
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A national survey asked 323 U.S. adults about paralinguistic digital affordances (PDAs) and how these forms of lightweight feedback within social media were associated with their perceived social support. People perceived PDAs (e.g., Likes, Favorites, and Upvotes) as socially supportive both quantitatively and qualitatively, even without implicit meaning associated with them. People who are highly sensitive about what others think of them and have high self-esteem are more likely to perceive higher social support from PDAs.
We examined whether an online social networking technology (Facebook) influenced students' perceptions of their peers' social connections as well as their own feelings of belonging. In this experiment (N = 601), students were assigned to view Facebook profiles with high or low social content. Students then estimated the number of friends their peers had and self-reported their own feelings of belonging and intentions to socialize with other students. Overall, there were no between-condition differences on these measures. However, first-year students responded differently than other students: they expressed reduced feelings of belonging after viewing the Facebook profile with high (vs. low) social content, whereas students from other years expressed marginally higher feelings of belonging after viewing the Facebook profile with high (vs. low) social content. These findings suggest that people who are new to a social network may be particularly susceptible to negative impacts of Facebook.
We examined the extent to which emerging adults engage in different behaviors on Instagram, a popular social networking site, to gain attention and validation from others via “likes.” We also examined individual differences in the frequency of like-seeking behavior and motives for Instagram use as mediators of these relationships. Participants (N = 198 and 265 (replication study)) were recruited via an online crowdsourcing portal to complete a survey. Results demonstrated that, as predicted, participants engaged in an assortment of different like-seeking behaviors. Further, a two-factor solution emerged, with like-seeking behavior separated by whether they were normative (i.e., common or accepted, e.g., using filters or hashtags) or deceptive (e.g., buying likes or changing one’s appearance in photos using software). Deceptive like-seeking was predicted by stronger narcissism and a weaker sense of peer belonging, whereas normative like-seeking was predicted by stronger narcissism and a stronger sense of peer belonging. Further, consistent with hypotheses, significant mediators of the relation between narcissism and deceptive like-seeking included motives to use Instagram to increase popularity and showcase creativity. Results help to identify young people who are more susceptible to engaging in deceptive, potentially harmful acts to gain attention and validation on Instagram.
Online social networking sites (SNSs) such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are used by billions of people every day to communicate and interact with others. There has been increasing interest in the potential impact of online social networking on wellbeing, with a broadening body of new research into factors associated with both positive and negative mental health outcomes such as depression. This systematic review of empirical studies (n = 30) adds to existing research in this field by examining current quantitative studies focused on the relationship between online social networking and symptoms of depression. The academic databases PsycINFO, Web of Science, CINAHL, MEDLINE, and EMBASE were searched systematically using terms related to online social networking and depression. Reporting quality was critically appraised and the findings discussed with reference to their wider implications. The findings suggest that the relationship between online social networking and symptoms of depression may be complex and associated with multiple psychological, social, behavioral, and individual factors. Furthermore, the impact of online social networking on wellbeing may be both positive and negative, highlighting the need for future research to determine the impact of candidate mediators and moderators underlying these heterogeneous outcomes across evolving networks.