Facebook considering making likes invisible in name of mental health

Facebook banning likes? Social media giant confirms it will test feature that hides others’ likes to protect mental health

  • Facebook confirmed that it may start hiding the number of likes on posts 
  • Users will see likes on their own posts but not on others’ 
  • It will likely follow a blueprint rolled out by Instagram in July  
  • The company says the tests are designed to help protect users’ mental health  
  • Facebook has yet to set the test live but is prototyping code for the feature

Facebook will likely be the next major platform to start hiding other users’ likes in the name of mental health.

The company confirmed that it was readying the feature after researcher and reverse engineer maven, Jane Manchun Wong, spotted a prototype of its code hidden inside Facebook’s Android app.

While the feature isn’t yet live for any of Facebook’s users, it’s likely that the test will be similar to an ongoing one inside the Facebook-owned picture and video-sharing platform, Instagram.

In July, Instagram rolled out a like-hiding test in Canada, Japan, Ireland, Italy, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand – in which users are still be able to see a list of likes on their own posts, but can’t view the number of others’ posts – to mixed responses. 

The platform says it is part of an effort to make users feel happier and less self-conscious online amid concerns social media can contribute to low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy in young people. 

MailOnline reached out to Facebook for additional details on the test but has not received a response before time of publication.  

It’s unclear exactly how Instagram’s like- hiding test has been received by beta users, but revelations that Facebook is interested in expanding the abbreviated like feature suggest the change has been at least somewhat successful. 

Instagram’s previous attempts to roll-out new features to its entire platform have yielded mixed results, but some, such as direct messaging and the non-chronological feed, have proven popular and been rolled out worldwide.  

Others however, have seen less success, such as the payments feature and its controversial naked image scanner to prevent revenge porn, were cancelled.  

This is how likes are shown for users in the trial. Instead of a number of ‘likes’ they are all lumped together under ‘other,’ Users can still like other people’s photos, they just can’t see how many likes the photo has. Pictured is an example screen grab posted by Instagram to its official account 

At the time Instagram’s decision to hide likes was announced, the move was met with a mixed reaction among some of the app’s users who cited the ability to see likes as one of their favorite features.

Some view the change as a reprieve from the constant battle for attention, while others — like influencers who rely on their follower and like counts for businesses — have been more skeptical.

Instagram’s trial in Canada, Japan, Ireland, Italy, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand was met with some backlash in July.

 

 

In July, Alex Light, an Instagrammer from London with more than 44,000 followers said the move is a step in the right direction for the platform. 

She told MailOnline: ‘I think that eliminating the visibility of likes is positive – it’s a mean of shifting focus from likes to good, engaging content. 

‘Influencers can become preoccupied with the amount of likes that their posts get (because that’s the instant, visible marker of a post’s success) that they end up creating their content according to what gets liked rather than what resonates.

‘If likes are scrapped, we can instead concentrate on creating better content that is more meaningful to the individual and the audience, hopefully making Instagram a more authentic place.’  

There’s also a possibility that by removing the pressure of likes from the equation, that users may be able to post on Facebook and Instagram more freely, according to Instagram Australia’s Director of Policy, Mia Garlick. 

‘We want Instagram to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves,’ she said in July.

‘We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love.   

He said the end of likes does not mean the end of influencers since brands and businesses can still see how many views and likes they get.

An Instagram spokesman said: ‘For businesses and creators on Instagram, this test will not affect measurement tools like Insights or Ads Manager’. 

Some social media users welcomed the removal of likes as a ‘positive’ change and called for Instagram to roll the feature out in the US.

 

 

Studies have shown that social media use can exacerbate mental health issues like depression, suicidal thoughts and psychological distress, according to the American Psychological Association.

In addition, other studies have shown that increased time spent on social media can lead to feelings of loneliness, social anxiety and social isolation. 

HOW CAN SOCIAL MEDIA HARM USERS’ HEALTH?

Twitter isn’t the first social media giant to look into how its platform affects users’ health. 

Facebook admitted in December that the site could be damaging to people’s health if used the wrong way. 

The company recommended that people use Facebook in an active, rather than passive, way, by communicating with friends, instead of just scrolling through their feed.

Facebook said it consulted with social psychologists, social scientists and sociologists to determine that the site can be good for users’ well-being if used the right way 

By interacting with people when you use Facebook, it can improve your well-being, according to the company.

The report came after a former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya said Facebook ‘destroyed how society works’. 

Facebook went on to say that while there were some downsides to social media, that by and large it has the potential for benefits if it’s used correctly. 

In January, Facebook also acknowledged that social media can harm democracy.

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