Facebook tests hiding the like count to improve users’ mental health

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Australians will no longer see how many people reacted and liked their Facebook friends’ posts as the social media giant is debuting a test to see if hiding like counts in a post may actually change something in the online behavior of their users. Facebook officially launched the test to hide the like count in Australia on Friday, September 27.

The test, which was heavily rumored in the last few weeks, will hide the number of people who liked a certain post. Instead of showing how many reactions a post gets, Facebook will only be showing one name and “others.”

Of course, users will still be able to see how many people made a like, heart, wow, angry, and sad reactions in their post but they will not be able to see those who made the reactions in others’ posts. Other users will be able to see the people who liked a certain post by clicking the “[a friend] and others” portion where the number of likes was previously shown. The same pop-up will be triggered to show who reacted to the specific post.

“We are running a limited test where like, reaction and video view counts are made private across Facebook. We will gather feedback to understand whether this change will improve people’s experiences,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch, who first reported the test. The spokesperson noted that if the test yielded positive results in changing the impact of likes in its users’ well-being, a global roll-out might be expected. However, there are no other tests that have been scheduled so far.

The announcement of the test comes a few weeks after the researcher, Jane Manchun Wong, spotted the possibility that Facebook may roll out hiding like count soon. Wong posted her discovery on Twitter and noted that users will still be able to tap and see the different accounts which made the reaction but will not be seeing the number of reactions at a glance.

Following the disclosure of Wong’s discovery, Facebook confirmed that they are indeed planning to hide the like count in every post, citing different studies that linked anxiety and depression to social media use.

Simultaneously, Facebook is also testing hiding the number of “hearts” in its subsidiary app, Instagram. The test, which also first noticed by Wong, started in Brazil several months ago. Following the success of their Canada test, Facebook also included other territories and rolled out the new policy in Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, and Japan to the test in July.

Similar to the test done on Facebook, Instagram’s test will also hide the likes a photo gets. The number of likes will also be visible to the poster but not to everyone else.

Facebook has since been vocal about its goal to improve the mental health of its users as multiple studies have linked poor mental health and social media usage. Facebook’s move to hide like counts is a step towards making its users more comfortable in expressing themselves. The San Francisco-based tech giant wanted to promote quality in their contents and to shy away from contents that are meant to solicit reactions.

The tests are being conducted by the News Feed team that falls under VP Fidji Simo’s jurisdiction over the main Facebook app. While Instagram is already receiving data from its test of the policy, Facebook said that a separate test if hiding like counts works for the platform is necessary because the two are entirely different platforms with different demographics and user behavior.

By not being able to see the massive number of likes other people are getting at a glance as well as not seeing how low a reception to someone’s post it, Facebook hopes that their users will be more comfortable sharing and posting content on the platform.

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