For the past decade, “likes” have been the chief currency of Facebook. It’s the way we’ve determined how many people think our babies are cute, believe our jokes are funny and recognize our new jobs are impressive.
Facebook (FB) itself has been so synonymous with likes that the thumbs up icon for the like button was placed on the sign outside the company’s headquarters.
Mia Garlick, director of policy at Facebook Australia, said the step has been taken after feedback from mental health professionals, who researched the use of Like button and then found that number of Likes may cause people to compare themselves socially. This in turn may impact the mental health of some Facebook users.
Still, the prototype might indicate positive results from hiding Like tallies in Instagram, which we first reported in April after it was spotted by Wong there as well. After beginning testing in Canada later that month. Instagram added Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, and Japan to the test in July. There, a post’s author can still see the Like total, but everyone else can’t. The expansion of that Instagram test and Facebook potentially trying it in its own app signals that it might have positive or negligible impacts on sharing while aiding mental health, or at least be worth a slight drop in engagement.
While the like has been a key Facebook feature for a decade, users have increasingly complained that it can make them feel bad, as people get caught up worrying about whether their posts get enough likes. People may not post things they fear won’t get likes, or they may delete things that didn’t perform well. Removing the public-facing like count could resolve some of that pressure.
It’s hoped that people will be more comfortable with sharing on the platform rather than feeling like it’s a competition, she said.
Garlick assured businesses who rely on Facebook they will still receive all the same metrics and insights they previously accessed.
She said it was too early to say if the test would roll out to other countries like Instagram’s trial has in Australia, Canada, Brazil, New Zealand, Japan, Italy and Ireland.
Like Facebook has said before, it wants its apps to be a place where people can comfortably express themselves and focus on the quality of photos and videos they’re sharing, rather than the amount of Likes or reactions they get on a regular basis. With its latest test, the company’s now hoping it help it create a healthier atmosphere all around, on its site and Instagram — although it does present a problem for social media influencers, many of whom have built business models based entirely around Likes and the clout that comes with them.