Why Facebook May Start Hiding ‘Like’ Counts
Some time ago, Instagram began hiding its Like counts in seven different countries around the globe, presumably as a precursor to hiding them for all users around the globe. Facebook now appears to be testing the same kind of operation for its main app, most likely with a view toward rolling this out on a platform-wide basis.
Facebook executives were recently queried about the testing, and confirmed that the platform is considering the possibility of hiding total Like counts on its main app. When Instagram began hiding the Like counts, it was only in Canada at first, and then a few months later, the capability was broadened to include New Zealand, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and Australia. By July of this year, those seven countries were no longer able to see Like counts on the platform, and the results must have been at least somewhat promising, because Facebook is now considering the same thing.
The reason behind the removals
Back in June of this year, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri told CBS News that the company was aiming at emphasizing user well-being, rather than gratifying their egos with high Like counts. At that time, he pointed out that it was not Instagram’s intention to promote competition between users for high Like counts. Instead, the focus for Instagram was on creating a space where people could spend their time and energy connecting with other people they cared about, discussing matters of relevance to both of them. The removal of Like counts was expected to reduce the competitive aspect of posting, and all the negative impacts which went along with it.
Negative impacts of Like competition
If you don’t see the harm in competing for high Like counts, just consider the results of a survey conducted in 2017 which identified Instagram as the worst of the social media platforms for well-being and mental health of its users. That survey pointed out that Instagram contributed to unreasonably high levels of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. It specifically zeroed in on young users who felt that their lives could not compare to the spectacular achievements which their peers sported on rival Instagram profiles.
The reason Instagram was so adamant about making the change which called for hiding Like counts was that the 2017 survey placed the platform last among all the major social networks for well-being of its users. While Instagram got high points for self-identity and self-expression, it was also the platform most closely associated with high levels of bullying, depression, anxiety, and the fear of missing out.
In that survey, YouTube was the only platform singled out for a positive score by survey respondents. Twitter finished in second place, with Facebook occupying the third position, followed by Snapchat in fourth place, and Instagram being dead last. This survey canvassed nearly 1,500 people between the ages of 14 and 24, and the participants were urged to answer questions about how each of the social media platforms had an impact on 14 different mental or physical health issues. While Facebook had a significantly better showing than Instagram, it is assumed that making a move on hiding Like counts would prevent it from falling into the same category of overlooking mental health issues among its users.
Reaction of users to hidden Like counts
It’s also true that Instagram posts which failed to achieve a certain number of Likes were automatically being deleted by most teens, because they were deemed to be irrelevant or uninteresting. Taken together, these facts would seem to support the idea that Likes and maintaining counts of them is counterproductive to the well-being and mental health of users. On the other hand, it cannot yet be stated that removal of Like counts will have a positive effect on those people who were previously interested in them.
Thus far, it’s safe to say that removal of Like counts on Instagram has not been met with anything like popular acclaim, and instead the platform has received baskets of complaints about its decision. That may be the reason for it holding back on a full rollout of the hiding feature, especially in the United States, where a significant number of users are still devoted to it.
If the hiding feature were extended to include Facebook and its 2.4 billion active users, that would definitely be a colossal step for the platform. If Facebook does rollout the new feature, it will most certainly be inundated by a number of unhappy users, and it will face an onslaught of users who will threaten to abandon the platform because of it. Even the older users on Facebook, which constitute the majority of its user base, are expected to be quite unhappy with the change if it’s implemented.
Pushing back at Facebook
It is quite likely that hordes of Facebook users will push back at the company and will resist the change that hides Like counts. In the coming months, Facebook will have to consider whether or not the new feature is worth all the grief they’re going to get if it gets implemented. They may adopt the same approach as Instagram in saying that they feel it’s for the benefit of their users, and that they have well-being and mental health in mind.
This is a legitimate concern, and it would be admirable if Facebook sticks to its guns in this regard for the well-being of its user community. But against that, Facebook will have to weigh the likelihood of a tremendous pushback from users who are unhappy with the decision. At the moment, Facebook appears poised for a broader implementation of its testing, so all indications are that they plan to go ahead with hiding the Like counts as planned. If you happen to be a Facebook user who has grown fond of the Like counts which you currently see in the app, be prepared for a sudden shock in the near future, when you log on some day, and they’re nowhere to be found.