I don’t like when people hide things from me.
I’d rather air my dirty laundry out in the open, honest and real, than feel like something is being kept a secret. When it comes to Facebook’s decision to beta test hiding likes on posts, however, I’m intrigued.
Social media has changed the way we think about ourselves—we can’t just exist on our own, outside of the internet. Some of us tweet as often as we breathe, hoping for some validation on our latest witticisms or vacation photos.
Facebook recently announced it may start hiding like counts, a move that it has already started testing in seven different countries with its photo and video sharing network, Instagram. The goal is to reduce social media envy and feelings of self-insufficiency.
|See also: Instagram to Start Hiding Likes|
Facebook may start hiding likes: how and why?
How will this new feature work in a practical application?
Facebook users can like, react to, and comment on posts the same as they always could. Instead of seeing that a certain number of people have reacted to a particular post, Facebook will display the following:
In these screen grabs taken by reverse engineer Jane Wong, we see that instead of a number, it says “Victoria Lo and others” have reacted to the post.
You can still click into the reactions to get a full list of who has interacted with the post and count those names if you wanted to, but the cumulative number of likes is hidden.
Facebook has not yet made this feature live, although some Android app users have already seen their newsfeed as Wong shared it.
Why this change, right now?
While it’d be nice to believe this was all for the greater good, we can speculate that there is certainly a financial component to this decision. Facebook makes more money when users stay online for long periods of time, watching ads and contributing to ad revenue.
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But no one wants to spend hours on a website that makes them feel inadequate. I know I’ve had days in which I’ve seen three wedding engagement posts in a row on my Facebook feed and immediately logged off simply because I felt bombarded and a little overwhelmed by others’ happiness.
Facebook hasn’t officially confirmed this as their motive, but removing the like count could be an efficient way to increase time-on-page while also keeping users from feeling sad about their own lives in comparison to others’.
Facebook will likely roll this feature out slowly, using revenue and user data to determine if the change positively or negatively impacts the platform.
Do you like it?
While I personally like the idea of social media sans-screaming for validation, I also worry about the impact of removing something that so many people have come to rely on as a form of self-worth.
For some elderly or rural populations, social media likes are some of the few interactions they have each day. In considering teenagers and preteens, they’ve never known a life without this type of validation.
Facebook is doing what it can to right some perceived wrongs (and profit in the process), but I can’t help but wonder about the world we’d live in had we never started chasing after likes in the first place.
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