Author: Josh Bruce, BFI
Facebook is now testing removing the like counter from timeline posts. This follows Instagram’s decision to hide the number of likes for photos and YouTube’s decision to started phasing out exact counts for public-facing subscriber numbers for channels with over 1000 followers.
Instagram tested the feature in Canada initially, before further adding to users in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, Brazil and Japan earlier this year. The increase in participating countries indicates that there have been some positive results from the testing on Instagram.
With the Facebook feature, the number of likes on any Facebook post is hidden from all users except the post publisher. You can still click to see exactly who liked the post and see a list of everyone’s reactions, however, the quantity will not be visible.
This feature was first highlighted by app researcher Jane Machun Wong on Twitter.
Facebook’s decision to follow Instagram by testing this feature adds growing confidence to the likelihood of it being implemented across further regions in the near future.
Why Hide Likes?
The idea from Facebook is to prevent users from comparing themselves to others and feeling inadequate if their posts don’t get as many likes.
Facebook has slowly become the platform that is more suited to sharing important life events, as apposed to everyday events. Many of these events receive high like counts and can cause some users to feel self-conscious of their own content and less likely to post content in the future.
Facebook is trying to reduce the feeling of envy that users have towards others, which could manifest itself to a feeling of “why even share if it’s not going to get that many likes and I look unpopular”. It also aims to prevent users from deleting posts that aren’t receiving enough likes.
Instagram said that their motivation behind hiding likes is because they “want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many like they get”.
There has been a growing trend of tech companies thinking more about how their products are affecting mental health. Facebook, Apple and Google have all introduced tools designed to limit your screen time amidst scrutiny on the affects of social media on mental health.
Adam Alter, associate professor of marketing and psychology at New York University said that “Each like is a proxy for social approval, so having a post with lots of likes places you higher on the social status ladder than does having fewer or in the worst case, zero likes.”
The decision to hide updates is a move away from making status updates a competition. Mia Garlick, Facebook Australia’s director of policy said that the change was based on feedback from mental health professionals. “We’ve had really positive feedback from a lot of the anti-bullying groups and mental health organizations that we work with,” Garlick said.
What is the Impact?
Hopefully, the changes will help result in a reduction of mental health problems related to social media. Facebook are also hoping for an increase in the quality of content that is produced.
The move could impact the relationship between brands and influencers as brands choose to decide which influencers they want to build relationships with. As influencers are forced into creating better content, brands will need to reevaluate which influencers are creating the best content.
It could also impact how the success of a marketing campaign is measured. There is evidence to suggest that the change could cause an overall reduction in the average number of likes that a post receives, so brands may need to look at different metrics.